EXCLUSIVE: Lawmakers back $10M plan to rebuild Ka Loko Dam

Published: Mar. 31, 2016 at 2:20 AM HST|Updated: Mar. 31, 2016 at 4:15 PM HST
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(Graphic: Hawaii News Now)
(Graphic: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Star Advertiser)
(Image: Star Advertiser)
(Graphic: Hawaii News Now)
(Graphic: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Ten years after the deadly collapse of the Ka Loko Dam, efforts are underway to rebuild it.

A measure to issue up to $10 million in revenue bonds to rebuild the dam has sailed through both houses of the Legislature, with the backing of state Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case.

The plan calls for revenue bonds to be issued on behalf of the Mary Lucas Trust, which owns half of the Ka Loko Reservoir.

The proceeds would be used for repairs and to buy out retired car dealer Jimmy Pflueger, who owns the other half of the reservoir and the land nearby.

Pflueger was accused of filling in the emergency spillway for the dam, which burst on March 14, 2006, killing seven people.

He later pleaded no contest to reckless endangering.

Ricky Cassiday, trustee of the Mary Lucas Estate, said the state revenue bonds are "not a giveaway."

"We have to pay the money and the interest," he said. "The only thing that is happening here is the state is allowing us to have a slightly lower interest rate and slightly longer term."

But critics worry that there aren't enough safeguards in the event of financial problems or if the dam breaches again.

"We need a guarantee that this money is going to be paid back to the state. We need some guarantee that the taxpayers won't be footing the bill," said attorney Teresa Tico, who represented the families of several victims of the Ka Loko dam disaster.

Nonetheless, Tico believes that rebuilding the dam is a good idea.

"Everyone needs closure. The primary thing is safety. These residents and landowners have been living downstream from the reservoir all of this time not knowing the dam can breach again," she said.

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