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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 4:34 p.m., Thursday, March 9, 2006

Auto dealer to pay largest storm water settlement in U.S. history

Associated Press

In the largest settlement of its kind, an auto dealer agreed to pay $7.5 million for damaging a Kaua'i beach and reef with runoff from his home, federal and state officials said today.

The agreement brings total government penalties and required payments to $12 million for a massive 2001 mudslide caused when Jimmy Pflueger was building an unauthorized road on his property. Mud and debris washed across neighboring property and into the ocean near Pila'a.

Under the latest settlement, Pflueger, who owns auto dealerships on O'ahu, will pay $2 million in state and federal penalties and $5.3 million to prevent further erosion and to clean up the reef and three streams. He will also be required to fund a $200,000 environmental project.

The settlement comes eight months after the state Board of Land and Natural Resources fined Pflueger $4 million in the same case — one of its largest fines ever.

In May 2005, Pflueger pleaded guilty to 10 felony counts in state court and was ordered to pay a $500,000 penalty for the road work, which he was doing without permits.

Pflueger's attorney, Wesley Ching, did not immediately return calls seeking comment. In court proceedings, Pflueger's defense team has argued that the big fines were an attempt to scam him for his money.