Grading and grubbing ordinances being reconsidered

The Kaua’i County Council is considering legislation to strengthen the county’s grading and grubbing ordinance – action spawned in part by government investigations into unpermitted work on land by Pila’a Bay owned by retired auto dealer James Pflueger.

During work on Pflueger’s property, stormwater runoff from a construction site in November 2001 flooded a new road leading to three homes by the bay, damaging at least one. The runoff also flowed into the bay.

As a result, federal, state and county governments and private parties have taken criminal and civil action against Pflueger, his companies and associates.

Pflueger and others have been criminally charged with 11 counts of violating the county’s grading and grubbing ordinance. At least eight are tied to the damage in Pila’a Bay.

The council’s proposed amendment of the existing law calls for preventing the spread of mud, sediment and pollutants to areas beyond construction sites and into the ocean.

The bill was briefly discussed during last Thursday’s council meeting at the historic County Building.

The council was poised to take action on the amendments to the grading and grubbing ordinance, but waived action to allow for more input from parties that could be affected by the legislation. They include contractors, according to council vice-chairman James Tokioka.

The proposed amendments are aimed at increasing protection of the environment and properties, but could increase the cost of building and development on the island.

The council’s committee of parks and public works is scheduled to take up the bill amendments at its next meeting on Feb. 20. A workshop is scheduled to be held at the historic County Building at 1 p.m. on Feb. 19.

Amendments to the law were initially introduced last October by former council chairman Ron Kouchi, mayor Bryan Baptiste, when he was a councilman, and Kaua’i Sen. Gary Hooser, when he sat on the council.

Some of the key provisions of the latest version of the bill include:

  • Setting up drainage systems to control erosion better.
  • Using natural vegetation when possible and prohibiting the storage of removed vegetation on river banks.

    The county engineer may require the removal of debris in a reasonable time, but not to exceed three months from when the vegetation was uprooted and removed.

  • Erosion controls that require clearing only areas essential for construction, protection of natural vegetation with fencing, retaining walls and other methods, protection of stockpiles and construction of ditches, benches or terraces to intercept runoff.
  • Preventing sediment from leaving construction sites through the construction of basins, sediment traps, filter fabric silt fences, sand bags and gravel bag barriers.
  • Proper storage of toxic material.
  • Prohibiting the use of soil as fill within the shoreline.
  • Prohibiting grading or mining of a coastal dune unless approved by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
  • A requirement for permits for grading or stockpiling No grubbing will be allowed without a grubbing permit except where grubbing concerns land for which a grading permit has been issued.
  • Prohibiting cutting or fill activity on land governed by the county’s Special Management Area use permits.
  • No permits for agricultural projects in some cases.
  • Fines and imprisonment. People convicted of violating the ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and can face a fine of no more than $1,000 or jail time not exceeding 30 days, or both, for a single offense.

    Any person responsible for grading more than 400 cubic yards, grubbing of more than four acres of vegetation or materials and stockpiling of more than 2,000 cubic yards of materials would be guilty of a felony.

  • Civil penalties for violators, including fines not to exceed $10,000 per day for each day in which the violation persists.
  • Forfeiture of grading and grubbing equipment by a police officer after probable cause is shown.
  • Actions by violators to correct hazardous conditions following a determination by a county engineer.
  • Administrative appeals for alleged violators.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@pulitzer.net

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