10 YEAR OLD ILLEGAL DITCH FED KA LOKO BEFORE DISASTER- PFLUEGER IMPLICATED;
COUNTY REPORT EXPLAINS COMPLAINTS OF LOW WATER FLOW IN MOLOA`A STREAM
(PNN) The tragic Ka Loko Dam break that killed seven people may have been caused in part by a recently discovered water ditch that was either illegally constructed or reconstructed within the last 10 years and fed the reservoir
The existance of the ditch was revealed in a recently released 154 page Kaua`i County study entitled “Kilauea Irrigation Water Engineering Design and Monitoring Study”.
It describes the Moloa`a Ditch and concludes it was apparently reconstructed without permits after years of disuse during the period when owner Jimmy Pflueger- who is about to go on trial for murder- was cited for illegal grubbing and grading above the reservoir and, according to witnesses, filled in the “spillway” overflow outlet of the dam
The report does not conclude exactly who did the work to establish the flow in the ditch- a portion of the Ka Loko Resevior system- during the period when Pflueger restricted entry onto the property and, as PNN has previously and exclusively reported, allegedly attempted to increase the water level of what he called his “lakes” in order to accommodate water and jet-skiing for a planned but never built resort community development.
According to Tim and Hope Kallai of Malama Moloa`a this explains changes and the sudden drop in water flowing to the Moloa`a stream beginning 10 years ago that has inhibited agriculture in the valley and forced over 200 people to move. Due to stream flow reduction the aquifer is almost dry and wells no longer have sufficient water, for even residential purposes.
They say their complaints to the county were ignored and squelched by then-Mayor Maryanne Kusaka. Press reports have indicated that Kusaka attempted to help Pflueger cover up his illegal activities by directing the county engineer and others in the Pubic Works Department to ignore all complaints and bring them to her personally.
In addition the Kallais report that they warned the county of impending disaster less than a month before the dam break when a flooding event took out an old “government road bridge” below Ka Loko.
The county report describes the ditch system and the unpermitted new construction.
The historic Moloa`a Ditch is considered as part of the Ka Loko Reservoir system. Moloa`a Ditch, also on the Moloa`a Forest Reserve land, transports water diverted from Kalua`a Stream to Ka Loko Reservoir (see Section 5.2). The ditch is depicted on historic maps created by Kilauea Sugar Company and is identified in various documents as part of the Ka Loko system. No revocable permit for this ditch was found during our search of State records. It is likely that no revocable permit had ever been requested by KICO (Kilauea Irrigation company) for use of this ditch since at the time KICO was formed Moloa`a Ditch was in a serious state of disrepair, and would have required extensive repairs to regain function. The additional water from Moloa`a Ditch was probably not necessary to meet demand during the post sugar cane period....
A review of several historic documents revealed this ditch had fallen into a serious state of disrepair following the closure of Kilauea Sugar Company and we surmise that the water from this ditch was not necessary to meet the demands placed on the system by diversified farming. In addition, no permits were found authorizing the diversion of Kalua`a Stream and use of the Moloa`a Ditch (see Section 4.1). It is our understanding that sometime during the last 10 years a third party restored this ditched, allowing water to again be diverted from the stream and delivered to Ka Loko Reservoir. There were indicators that this ditch was maintained and that it had been cleaned out during the past several years.
According to the report’s executive summery
Councilman Jay Furfaro worked with County of Kaua`i (County) officials to initiate the project, which led to the County Office of Economic Development funding this study. The County’s intent was to provide funding for this study which would provide private stake holders with information necessary to select an alternative solution and pursue funding opportunities to implement the selected alternative.
The Kallais put the findings in perspective with a description of their efforts and observations of Moloa`a residents over the past 10 years. They write:
During the Kilauea Sugar plantation era, the Moloa`a ditch system delivered an “inconsequential amount of water” and fell into disrepair from non-use. Mysteriously, a new ditch system appeared – about the same time as the spillway at Ka Loko disappeared and the raising of the elevation of the dam face. Kalua`a is a perennial stream tributary that starts from a soggy seep on state forest land, flows into Moloa`a stream and is the main water source for Moloa`a stream.
Mysteriously, someone poured a new cement ditch system diverting Kalua`a water from Moloa`a stream into Ka Loko Reservoir and into a pipe system servicing Mary Lucas Trust lands and Pila`a. This extra water inflow allowed the impoundment of hundreds of millions of gallons of extra water in the increased-capacity Ka Loko reservoir (altered by removal of spillway and elevation of dam) beyond the intended storage capacity of the reservoir. At least until March 14, 2006.
Our ahupua`a based group of neighbors, Malama Moloa`a, formed about a decade ago around a common cause – the de-watering of the streams from Anahola to Kilauea. About the same time, late 1990’s, Moloa`a stream began changing. There were no flushing flows – high precipitation events didn’t cause the stream to rise as it used to. Sometimes, Moloa`a stream rose when there was no precipitation. A few times the stream ran really dirty – brown water and grey water (looking like cleaning up after a cement pour). Early 2000’s Moloa`a stream had a sand berm at the mouth that didn’t clear for 3 years, blocking the migration of o`opu.
When they tried to alert the county, Mayor Kusaka refused to acknowledge the evidence they had that something was wrong up stream. They continue:
Malama Moloa`a wrote many letters with maps and photos where we thought the diversion was, but Mayor Kusaka wouldn’t honor anonymous photos submitted to our group from the public. DLNR’s Commission of Water Resources Management (CWRM) sent a representative to investigate but they were escorted by a representative of a land owner who did not show them the new diversion from Kalua`a into the re-aligned historic Moloa`a ditch and into Ka Loko reservoir or the Mary Lucas/Pila`a pipeline.
Alterations to state land in the Moloa`a Forest Reserve by James Pflueger were revealed in the EPA Consent decree settlement, in very close proximity to the newly-created ditch system, and the unpermitted grading and grubbing remediated. Yet no agency present noticed the disappearance of the spillway or the increased flow into Ka Loko from a new, unpermitted stream diversion from Kalua`a/Moloa`a.
Then they reveal a previously unreported flooding event weeks before the final deluge that should have alerted county officials that the dam was about to break.
On Feb. 21, 2006, Moloa`a Stream experienced a destructive flood that took out the Old Government Road bridge in lower Moloa`a. Due to the volume of water and how long the flood lasted, we thought that Ka Loko had blown. We were told by county representatives “Ka Loko’s not full; it’s still holding. Don’t worry, if it blows, it will take out Kilauea side.” Three weeks later it did – killing 8 people. We believe what actually happened was the diversion experienced a log jam and Moloa`a regained it’s stolen water.
The Kallais’ letter is reproduced in full at Juan Wilson’s Island Breath web site.
The report includes this detailed description of the ditch- which flows through three tunnels in the mountain after being diverted by an “ad hoc dam constructed of rocks”- and describes the recent construction that increased the flow into Ka Loko by taking the water from a “perennial stream” which is prohibited under federal laws without necessary permits.