Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Kauai's Case of the Missing Spillway

Today's Honolulu Advertiser carried another follow-up story about last week's disaster on the neighbor island of Kauai when heavy rains caused a collapse of a 100-year old irrigation reservoir. The ensuing flood swept away seven known people. So far only four bodies have been recovered.

Today's story is headlined, "Dam safety fixture disputed--Inspectors can't find spillway but owners say it's still there."

Well, a spillway is a spillway . . . and either it is there or it isn't and in either case it is not exactly a "safety fixture" but a necessary part of any dam. (A dam without a spillway is like a car without brakes).

In any case, the owners say the spillway is buried under the collapsed earthen dam.

Older neighborhood residents say they remember seeing the spillway back in the 1980's and '90's. Other folks say that the spillway had been backfilled by the owners and was no longer functional.

As you can see the "case of the missing spillway" could involve a whole lot of liability.

The owner's lawyer is quoted as saying, "Our inspection shows that the spillway is still there and intact."

According to the Advertiser story,
Numerous state and federal officials said they have carefully inspected the site and found no spillway. The Hawaii state adujant general said, "We couldn't find a spillway." Ray Kong, and engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers said, We were surprised not to find (a spillway). We looked."
I have heard that "justice is blind" but I had never taken that phrase literally before now.

I guess in the end it will be a "he-said-she-said" case and a jury will have to decide which story they actually believe!

Then again, I suppose the owner's lawyer could simply be asked to point out the spillway to somebody without a vested interest in the case.