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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Kaloko Dam investigation still weeks away

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer

State lawmakers have yet to set a time line for appointing a special attorney general to investigate the Kaloko Dam breach, but hope to start the process within the next couple of days.

It could be weeks before a list of candidates to investigate the March 14 dam collapse is forwarded to Attorney General Mark Bennett, who will select a deputy to perform an independent civil investigation.

Bennett has urged lawmakers to move swiftly. "I think it is important that they form as quickly as possible so the delay doesn't impact the civil investigation," he said.

House Majority Leader Marcus Oshiro, D-39th (Wahiawa) who will serve on the selection committee, agrees that it's time to start work. "We need to convene and solicit and review and submit recommendations as soon as possible," he said.

He hopes to set a meeting this week to start determining how to select candidates, a process that could take a few weeks, he said. "We want to retain the best and brightest, and most qualified attorney or law firm that does not have a conflict of interest," he said.

Senate Minority Leader Fred Hemmings, R-25th (Kailua, Waimanalo, Hawai'i Kai), who also will serve on the committee, has reservations that the appointment will set a precedent that will lead to the attorney general being removed from future state investigations.

However, since Bennett has agreed to cooperate, Hemmings wants to move quickly to find someone who can do the job fairly. "Time is a factor here," he said, noting the state also needs to focus on problems at other dams.

Some Kaua'i residents are frustrated that the state has been so slow to move, but those contacted by The Advertiser are not as bothered by the delay in the appointment as they are that the state will continue to be in charge of the investigation.

Amy Marvin, who lives about a mile from the dam, said the federal government or someone outside the state should conduct an independent investigation. "There are too many personal relationships in the state for there to be an objective investigation," she said.

Michael Perius, who lives on the Morita Reservoir, said that at this point, the government is just being reactive. "They could have saved lives and millions of dollars by simply responding to what they received in writing by residents," he said, noting that he had requested an investigation before the breach.

"I don't think they're going to do anything," he said. "I don't think the state did anything before, and I don't think they'll do anything after."

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.