Federal Lawsuit Filed to Protect Coral Reef on Kaua`i

Irrisponsible development threatens traditional practices


David Henkin, Earthjustice 808-599-2436

Kaua`i community groups the Limu Coalition and the Kïlauea Neighborhood Association, represented by Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, filed a lawsuit in Hawai’i’s federal district court today to stop the destruction of a formerly pristine reef by Kaua`i developer and retired O`ahu auto dealer Jimmy Pflueger. In developing his luxury subdivision in the ahupua`a of Pila`a on the north shore of Kaua`i, Pfluger has failed to implement erosion and storm water control measures required under both the federal Clean Water Act and Hawai’i’s water pollution laws. The resulting uncontrolled runoff has sent rivers of muck and debris washing into the Pacific, smothering the reef at Pïla`a and despoiling a favorite spot for diving, subsistence fishing and gathering of limu, swimming and other subsistence and recreational activities.

“Until recently, people could go to Pïla`a to harvest limu, fish and opihi to feed their families, but no more,” said Kïlauea Neighborhood Association board member Linda Pasadava. “Because of Jimmy Pflueger’s irresponsible bulldozing, the reef, and the traditional lifestyle it supports, are under attack. As a community, we had to take action to protect this precious jewel from further damage.”

Pflueger’s construction activities have included near-continuous grading and clearing on the steep bluffs above Pïla`a Beach, building 15-foot berms along Kuhio Highway, and bulldozing roads in streambeds throughout the ahupua`a, including a new road last summer that cut a barren, vertical cliff more than forty feet high mere yards from the Pacific Ocean. Storms in late November 2001 turned loose soil from these construction activities to mud, sending tons of dirt, mud, rocks, trees and debris cascading onto Pïla`a Beach and into the ocean.

“The environmental devastation at Pïla`a didn’t have to happen,” explained Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. “The law recognizes that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and it requires developers like Pflueger to take proactive measures to prevent runoff from construction sites, before breaking ground. Unfortunately, Pflueger ignored repeated warnings that he needed to address storm water problems at Pïla`a, and the result is a dying reef and muddy water in an area once cherished for its abundant marine resources.”

In the lawsuit, the Limu Coalition and the Kïlauea Neighborhood Association seek an injunction to (1) stop Pflueger’s construction activities at Pïla`a until he obtains a storm water permit and fully complies with its terms, (2) require Pflueger to install adequate erosion control measures immediately to prevent additional adverse environmental impacts from construction runoff, and (3) restore the area to its former condition. The suit also seeks appropriate penalties.

“While there are other despoilers of the land on Kaua`i, Pflueger’s actions have been so egregious that we had to go to court,” said Limu Coalition president Ray Chuan. “We need people to understand that you cannot ignore the laws protecting our environment without being held to account.”

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