Hawaiian dam bursts

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006 On March 14, 2006, the Ka Loko Reservoir on the Hawaiian island of Kauai gave way around 5 a.m. after several days of torrential rains and thunder. The resulting wave destroyed coastal highways, killed one person, and left seven others missing. The missing and dead count is expected to increase as searchers investigate the waters that flowed into the Pacific. Even though Kauai had received 5-6 inches of rain in the past day, most residents admitted that the island was not prepared for this situation. Although oil was spilled into the water, there has been no sighting of significant damage.

This dam break has many concerned about the possibility of another reservoir break, especially since most of Hawaii's reservoirs are at least a century old and privately owned. Engineers have begun to drain both the Morita and Waita Reservoirs, also on Kauai, to prevent any possible breaks. Although the governor stated that most of the responsibility for privately owned reservoirs belongs to the owners, she did admit that the state was also failing in its monitoring responsibilities, noting that the department in charge of monitoring reservoirs only has two employees. Although the primary owner, the Mary N. Lucas Trust, has made no comment, a partial owner, Mr. Jimmy Pflueger, has admitted he was devastated by the damage done by the reservoir.

The dam, 40 feet high and 80 feet long, released 300-400 million gallons of water, about 1400 acre-ft. Many tourists, as well as native residents, have been stranded without transportation, as the destruction of the main Lihue highway, the Kuhio Highway, has closed down the airport. The Coast Guard has taken over the main part of the search, although Hawaii National Guards has also been activated. Kauai County's mayor has declared Kauai to be in a state of emergency.