Dam Break Leaves Lingering Effect

Terry and Carole Wells
Terry and Carole Wells

WAILAPA, Kaua'i (KHNL) - Six weeks ago, a flood devastated a small Kauai community. Seven people were killed and acres of land were torn up when the Ka Loko dam broke.

Sadly, neighbors say not much has changed after the storm. They're still cleaning up tons of debris, and they're getting angry it's taking so long to get help.

Four hundred million gallons of water burst from the Ka Loko Dam in mid-March. Six weeks later the debris isn't cleaned up.

It breaks Terry and Carole Wells' hearts to see their backyard now. Carole says, "We're out here every day picking up debris."

Her husband adds, "But it's bigger than what we can do ourselves."

They're tree farmers, and only a third of their crop is left standing. Before the flood, they had six acres of trees. Remembers Carole, "It breaks our heart. We planted those trees when they were 6 inches tall."

The crop of trees used to be the Wells' retirement plan. But now that plan has been deferred for at least ten years.

Now they say their yard is a health hazard filled with "mosquitoes, junk cars, spilled fuel, propane tanks, you name it - dangerous stuff sitting out there," remarks Carole.

They blame the state. Terry says, "They're trying to hide the fact that they've been ignoring the water system in these islands all these years."

They want an apology from the state, and they want help now.

"We need cleanup and we need it fast. We have to get on with our lives."

State civil defense says it'll probably bring in heavy equipment for a major cleanup in late May.