Open Letter to the People of Hawaii: Jimmy Pflueger is Innocent of Manslaughter Charges

Jimmy Pflueger indicted in 2008
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BY FRED TROTTER – Our friend, Jimmy Pflueger, is being persecuted, not prosecuted, for the Kaloko Dam failure.  In all the negative press, the Truth about Kaloko has been hidden by the State to hide its responsibility for the dam failure by blaming Jimmy.


  • The State made a deal with C. Brewer in 1977 to allow Brewer to develop unused former sugar planation land below the dam if Brewer would continue to use and maintain the Kaloko Reservoir to irrigate agricultural lands.  When Brewer sold its part of the Reservoir to Jimmy Pflueger in 1987, it specifically kept for itself ownership of the water and the responsibility to maintain and use the irrigation system to honor its deal with the State.  Brewer, through its subsidiary Kilauea Irrigation Company, sold that water to farmers for decades.  Jimmy Pflueger did not profit from these water sales – Kilauea Irrigation Company and Brewer did.  Now the state is saying that the water and irrigation system which includes the dam and reservoir is Jimmy’s problem.  For the State, history and legal responsibilities are simply inconvenient truths.
  • In 1984 the Soil Conservation Service in a joint Federal/State study questioned the stability and safety of the foundation of the dam when it was owned by C. Brewer (trees over 50’ tall were growing at the dam base which was leaking heavily).  C. Brewer and the State did NOTHING about the dam in response to this report.
  • The State never inspected the dam at any time during the 10 year period before its failure contrary to its statutory responsibilities to inspect the dam at least once a year.
  • Kilauea Irrigation Co., which by legal compact filed with the PUC had the responsibility to maintain the dam and spillway, admitted it never maintained either.
  • The State classified the Kaloko dam as “Low Hazard” – meaning it posed no danger to life or property if it breached.
  • Jimmy Pflueger wrote a letter to the Department of Land & Natural Resources (DLNR) of the State of Hawai’I in October 1990 granting the DLNR the unfettered right to inspect the dam at any time.  The State later lied and said Jimmy never gace it permission as an excuse for not inspecting the dam.  (It should be noted that the state law gives DLNR the right to inspect any dam with or without permission.)
  • Beginning in April 2001, Jimmy invited State Public Utilities officials to Kaloko to inspect the irrigation system (ditches, reservoir, dam, etc.) operated by Kilauea Irrigation Co. and warned them that the entire system was not being maintained.  A PUC official went up to Kaloko with Jimmy in July 2001.  The warning was ignored.
  • In 1998, Mike Dyer said he notified both the State and Jimmy about the spillway being filled.  State officials deny that Mr. Dyer ever sent such a notice.  Mr. Dyer thereafter sold residential lots below the dam to buyers without disclosing to buyers that the dam posed any danger.
  • The spillway was not the primary safety mechanism to prevent water from overtopping the Kaloko dam.  The Kaloko Reservoir is fed by ditches with gates which could cut off as much as 90% of the water going into the reservoir.  Kilauea Irrigation Co., not Jimmy Pflueger, controlled or owned these ditches and gates.  Not once during the highly unusual 40 days and nights of rain before the breach were the gates closed by Kilauea Irrigation Co.  In fact, Kilauea Irrigation Co., which knew that there was no spillway, did not monitor water levels at the Kaloko Reservoir during the 40 day storm.
  • Experts disagree whether the absence of a spillway had anything to do with the dam’s failure.  A respected national engineering firm says the dam broke from the bottom, not from the overtopping, for reasons identified much earlier in the 1984 Soil Conservation Services Report.
  • The unfortunate people who perished in the flood were living next to the stream in unpermitted, make-shift dwellings in the flood zone contrary to County of Kaua’I laws.

In order to escape its culpability in the matter, The State blames Jimmy while cloaking itself in the “sovereign immunity” defense in legal proceedings.  In other words, the State took on the responsibility of public safety, did nothing, and gave itself immunity for not doing its job.  If this is not enough, now the State destroys the reputation of a good man – not a perfect man – but a good man with a malicious prosection.




Sincerely, Fred Trotter, Chairman, Friends for Jimmy Pflueger


Reprinted from the Star-Advertiser at the request of the Pflueger family