Friday, May 8, 2009


It’s Chinatown, Jake...

The grubbing and grading violations above Ka Loko Dam for which Jimmy Pflueger was cited and fined years before the dam break, apparently covered over an extensive system of water pipes fed by an illegal water diversion that steals water from Moloa`a stream.

As PNN reported Wednesday a county funded report designed to study the reestablishment of irrigation for Kilauea farmers after the tragic dam break in 2006, describes how within the past 10 years “someone” completely rebuilt the long abandoned Moloa`a Ditch to feed the Pflueger and the Mary Lucas Trusts’ lands and Ka Loko reservoir which sits on both.

The report also notes that the ditch connects to an 8” intake pipe on Pflueger’s property that undergrounds at that point just above the work for which Pflueger was cited which is above the reservoir. The intake pipe contains at least two branches, one for Pflueger’s land and one for the Trust’s land.

Apparently in addition to providing a higher water level in the reservoir for the Pflueger’s planned water sports development one of the purposes of the ditch was to provide residential use water for Pflueger’s planned resort community on the property because county water is not available in the area, according to Kallai

Since no one knew of the re-construction of the Moloa`a Ditch at the time of the inspections that led to the violation, apparently no one suspected that the grubbing and grading actually covered over a system of water pipes.

The pipes also provide water to others who own the Mary Lucas trust land including relatives of Pflueger who Kallai says, sued him over water rights in the 1990’s.

Although the particulars of that case are sketchy at present, the suit was apparently dropped and Pflueger was removed as the Trust’s head around the time the ditch was re-established.

At the time Pflueger, a Lucas heir, was the head of the Trust and was denying water to his relatives, in part for a mango farm on the Lucas Trust land according to Kallai who is familiar with the suit.

At a meeting to discuss the water situation Wed. night in Kilauea, according to Kallai one 80+-year-old-man who said he used to head up maintenance for whole the Ka Loko Reservoir and Ditch System said the Moloa`a Ditch was abandoned decades ago- perhaps as early as the 1920’s- because it was not needed for Kilauea sugar cane operations which ceased in the early 1970’s.

It had fallen into total disrepair but it remains to be determined how much of the “new” ditch was part of the old one and how much was constructed from scratch, including the three tunnels through mountains and the “ad hoc dam” at the point of diversion.

Kallai, a Moloa`a farmer, says that the estimates in the county report of how many gallons a day are being taken from the Moloa`a Stream is a severe underestimate, based on a quick glance done from a distance from the ditch and diversion rather than any real measurement.

Kallai estimates the value of the water at the county’s agricultural rate could be well into the billions of dollars.

Water rights in Hawai`i belong to the state and allotment by diversion is severely regulated based on the famous Hanapepe Water Rights case which has, in recent times led to cases like the Wai`oli Ditch decision that returned water to windward O`ahu streams and is currently being used to determine controversial water rights on Maui.

Kallai said that although we reported that she said that 200 farmers had already left Moloa`a she was rather referring to the number whose farming activities have been either curtailed or eliminated since the water in Moloa`a stream dried up 10 years ago and will have to leave if water is not restored to the stream.

She also alerted us to an April 13 2006 article by Malia Zimmerman of The Hawaii Reporter that tells the whole story we referred to Wed. regarding Kallai’s warnings that the dam was about to break just weeks before it actually did.

According to that article:

Pflueger was fined $12,500 by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Commission on Water Resource Management on July 28, 2001, for altering the stream channel and diverting the stream without proper permitting for his properties at Hanalei and Kilauea, Kauai.

His water diversion activities also included those on his Pila`a property where another deluge took out the home and Kuleana of Amy and Rick Marvin due to grading of a new road done personally by Pflueger without permits.

Pflueger had constructed “lakes” on the property as part of activities that killed the Pila`a reef and resulted in his conviction on 10 felony counts and a 7.5 million EPA fine in 2006.

Kallai says those lakes were finally removed just last month as part of the remediation plan.

The article also notes:

James Pflueger, who owns the property from which the wave of water could have come, claims he never altered the waterway, the dam’s spillway or the dam height. "If you find anyone who knows I diverted streams, let me know and I'll come running," Pflueger told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Pflueger has so far refused to return calls to Hawaii Reporter.

But, despite Zimmerman’s requests for information an investigation the state’s extensive Godby report completed in the aftermath of the dam break has nothing about the diversion and no further investigation of it has occurred on the part of the state.

The diversion was not “discovered” until the description appeared in the county report that was released last Friday, although it is dated April 12.

The report posted on line is a draft and was presented with minor revisions at the Wed. Kilauea meeting according to Kallai upon whose descriptions of the meeting we have relied for this article.


LoF said...


I think you meant: Waiahole Ditch decision.

Unknown said...

Hitch answers questions about why the ditches worked so well in March '06:

Andy Parx said...

Thanks line- I've been doing that for years- old habits die hard. I'll correct in the next story on this- there's plenty to come with new stuff every day.

LoF said...

I am the same way. There are some Hawaiian words that I didn't learn the spelling until UH so I have a habit of misspelling them still -- and I have a degree in Hawaiian studies.