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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 29, 2006

Small farmer should be heard in Kaloko debate

After the spring rains hit, it's hard to comprehend the real function of Kaua'i's Kaloko Reservoir.

In its breached state, the century-old dam contributed to a deadly deluge that devoured homes and killed seven people.

But with the dry weather comes a better appreciation for the reservoir's utility.

Even though the reservoir is barely at a 10th of its 400 million-gallon capacity at present, the irrigation flow still keeps as many as 20 customers many of them small farmers in business.

And as the fate of the dam is debated, the needs of these small farmers deserve consideration.

Jimmy Pflueger, the reservoir's majority owner, initially was all for tearing it down. But an appeal to him from farmers, like Phill Green, who rely on the dam has rightly made Pflueger reconsider. Green has 20 acres of root ginger and pineapple.

Indeed, it's important to recognize the dwindling number of small farmers in our state. With increasing pressures brought on by rising land values and other costs, these farmers are finding their livelihood continually threatened.

The state managed to appropriate $50,000 in emergency funding in House Bill 970 to study the impacts of the dam's closure on agriculture. In the next legislative session, even more money should be set aside to repair dams. Lawmakers also should consider more viable and modernized irrigation alternatives where possible.

For now, the state should provide guidance to Pflueger and other private dam owners who need to know that a teardown isn't their only option.