Kaua`i , Hawai`i
Earthjustice sent a letter on behalf of Kaua`i community groups the Limu Coalition and the Kïlauea Neighborhood Association (KNA), notifying Kaua`i developer and retired O`ahu auto dealer Jimmy Pflueger of the groups’ intent to sue for violations of the federal Clean Water Act’s prohibition on the unauthorized discharge of fill material. In the summer of 2000, Pflueger dumped tons of dirt, rocks and gravel into a spring-fed stream in the ahupua`a of Pila`a on the north shore of Kaua`i to build a new access road to Pïla`a Beach. Thereafter, Pflueger regularly added dirt and gravel to prevent the stream from reasserting itself over the road. Pflueger also installed several culverts and dug a diversion ditch to redirect stream flows away from the road. The Clean Water Act flatly prohibits such activities without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which Pflueger has never sought.
“Pflueger’s failure to secure the required permit and to implement necessary erosion control measures and other management practices has destroyed a formerly intact native stream ecosystem, leaving a rutted roadway where once spring waters flowed clear and cool into the Pacific,” said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. “It’s time that developers like Pflueger learn that they have to play by the rules, or pay the price.” The Clean Water Act provides for civil penalties of up to $27,500 per day that unpermitted fill material remains in the stream at Pila`a.
The Clean Water Act requires citizen groups like the Limu Coalition and KNA to provide written notice of the groups’ intent to sue at least 60 days before filing suit. In today’s letter, the groups demanded that Pflueger immediately restore the stream to its original condition. In the alternative, the groups insisted that Pflueger obtain and comply with the requirements of a proper permit for the discharge of fill material into the stream, which would include the implementation of erosion control measures and other management practices.
“Pflueger’s irresponsible dumping of fill material and stream diversions have left the stream choked with silt and muck, which flushes into the ocean with every heavy rain,” explained Kïlauea Neighborhood Association board member Linda Pasadava . “We sent this notice letter because we want Pflueger to clean up his mess now.”
Today’s notice letter addresses Clean Water Act violations that are separate from, and in addition to, the violations at issue in the federal court lawsuit against Pflueger that Earthjustice filed on behalf of the Limu Coalition and KNA on August 19, 2002. That lawsuit seeks injunctive relief and civil penalties for violations of the Clean Water Act’s prohibition on unpermitted discharges of storm water from Pflueger’s extensive construction activities at Pila`a.
“The common issue in both our pending lawsuit and this notice letter is sediment,” said Limu Coalition president Ray Chuan. “Sediment-laden water from Pflueger’s careless development at Pïla`a – including the construction of an access road through the middle of a stream – is washing into the nearshore waters and onto the reef, smothering fish, limu, shellfish, and other marine resources on which local residents rely for both subsistence and recreation. This has to stop.”