Why Zuckerberg Kauai Empire Now Includes Tragedy and More Controversy

Mark Zuckerberg has purchased more property on Kauai including the Kaloko Reservoir, further adding to his 1,300-acre estate. Not unlike the other Zuckerberg Kauai acquisitions, this $17 million, 110-acre addition is controversial and this time includes a haunted and most tragic past.

The tragedy at Kaloko reservoir. 

Zuckerberg’s latest purchase was part of a retired sugar plantation, but more significantly, includes Kaloko reservoir which was once part of the property’s irrigation. You may recall, however, as we do, the indelible memory of when the ancient reservoir’s earthen walls collapsed. It sent a deadly wave of water down a Kauai slope, wiping out everything in its path and killing seven people. As the nearby property owner whose family was killed at the time said, “Oh my God, everything’s been washed away.” That event occurred during an unprecedented and unforgettable 40 days of torrential rain, some fifteen years ago. For a long time, some of the damage was apparent from the highway. Ultimately vegetation grew back, obscuring the incredible damage.

The dam was previously owned by wealthy Hawaii car dealer James Pflueger who pled no contest to felony reckless endangerment. The sentence was 7 months in jail and 5 years probation. Pfleuger was released from jail early due to medical reasons and later died. His company also pled no contest to manslaughter.

It was alleged that Pflueger had intentionally blocked the dam spillway to raise the water level in order to create waterfront property. Settlement on behalf of the victims and others whose property was destroyed, which included Bette Midler, included a $25 million payment.

Zuckerberg’s representatives indicated that they will follow all legal requirements with regards to the dam’s safety going forward.

Kauai Mayor was implicated in deadly dam breakage at new Zuckerberg property.

The county had received complaints about illegal grading associated with Kaloko reservoir. Later the state attorney general said that the dam’s critical spillway had been covered despite warnings about the safety implications.

It was reported, including on ABC’s 20/20, that the prior owner had given a large, illegal and unreported $9,000 cash contribution to then-mayor Maryanne Kusaka to get inspectors to look the other way in terms of damn safety. Pfleuger said he gave the money to Kusaka because he believed she needed the help. Kusaka later testified before a Kauai grand jury. It was widely rumored that she received immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony against Flueger.

When Kusaka was asked about it by 20/20 reporters, she covered her face, did not respond, fled, and then refused to answer subsequent questions.

Read about Zuckerberg 600 Acres on Kauai At Larsen’s Beach

Zuckerberg’s last acquisition: Kauai’s fishpond.

Recently, Zuckerberg also acquired the largest fishpond on Kauai in exchange for a $4 Million donation.

The 600-year-old Menehune (Alakoko) fish pond consists of over 100 acres near Lihue. It had been for sale for years for up to $12 million.

Zuckerberg provided a donation to the Trust For Public Land to help them acquire the fish pond to preserve its cultural and environmental significance.

Zuckerberg’s Kauai home.

According to previously issued county building permits, the Zuckerberg’s have a 57,000 square foot single-family residence with a total of 25 bathrooms on their original Kilauea Kauai property.

43 thoughts on “Why Zuckerberg Kauai Empire Now Includes Tragedy and More Controversy”

  1. Actually I think you’ve got something there. One of the things that is definitely Kauai is the original Coco Palms, especially as viewed by the world in the 1961 movie “Blue Hawaii” with Elvis Presley. Zuckerberg could not only afford to get the land, but he has the wherewithal to acquire Hal Kanter’s screenplay notes and pictures for historical accuracy in recreating Coco Palms. You only require a facade and lagoons, as I actually see it as a museum and tourist attraction for decades to come!

  2. Thanks Miss Chan and Mr. Zuckerberg for investing in and preserving our aina for all our oiwi living and visiting Hawaii. We are pleased and grateful, mahalo.

  3. Thanks Miss Chan and Mr. Zuckerberg for investing in and preserving our aina for all our oiwi living and visiting Hawaii. We are pleased and grateful, mahalo.

  4. I get that he’s a self-made man and earned his money. I get that he wanted a vacation home on Kaua’i for his wife and himself. I get that he wanted it to be secluded, but seriously, how much land does he need for that? He has plenty of land already to keep the riff raff out, and a wall around it. Does he need to keep acquiring more? When will he be satisfied? Is this some kind of obsession with him? I don’t have the answer, but maybe he needs to be content with the land he has now.

  5. Kusaka should have been implicated in the deaths of the 7 people as well. How many other Kaua’i development projects did she (and predecessors) take money for and look the other way?

  6. Why doesn’t he invest in something and make it useful, like buying Coco Palms and restoring it to its original beauty. That would bring in jobs, and money to the island. Generations are now waiting to return to the splendor of Coco Palms.

    1. Actually I think you’ve got something there. One of the things that is definitely Kauai is the original Coco Palms, especially as viewed by the world in the 1961 movie “Blue Hawaii” with Elvis Presley. Zuckerberg could not only afford to get the land, but he has the wherewithal to acquire Hal Kanter’s screenplay notes and pictures for historical accuracy in recreating Coco Palms. You only require a facade and lagoons, as I actually see it as a museum and tourist attraction for decades to come!

  7. What’s better for Kauai both culturally and environmentally, one wealthy family building a home on 1500 acres or 1500 well to do families building homes on one acre?

    1. “Well-to-do” is another way of saying “wealthy” in English. Kind of like colored is another way of saying black and Anglo is another way of saying white. But certainly one family living on 1500 acres is way more environmentally friendly than 1500 families living on that same property. Culture is a completely subjective and immeasurable concept so there is no way to calculate the various impacts on that.

  8. I seriously can’t stand this man! Not because he’s rich I have no problem with ultra successful people but this man is awful and it is a travesty that he owns so much land in the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to!

    1. Would rather all of that land be developed into resorts for tourists–or into neighborhoods full of affordable (aka run down) housing for the “locals”? The ‘bergs and the Winfreys and the Midlers are honestly some of the few people standing between rampant over development of the islands. Or is there just not enough available, accessible, public property in Hawaii for you to enjoy? You need their land, too?

  9. I am assuming that at some time all or most of Kauai was owned by native Hawaiians. They decided to sell to non Hawaiians. Maybe you should direct your anger at them.

  10. I guess you liked the previous owner more than zuckerberg.
    Don’t worry too much. 100 years all new people. New owner too.

  11. I’m from Las Vegas – the 7th (or so) Hawaiian island. I welcome all Hawaiians who want to buy land here and graciously welcome them to our city as tourists. I can only hope we receive the same grace when we visit Hawaii. Mahalo.

  12. Big government, big media and big tech are destroying the American dream. Since 2008 the government has been buying up stocks and granting monopoly power to tech companies. Covid has been used as an excuse to destroy those deemed nonessential. Instead of protecting the rights of Hawaiian citizens the politicians are taking money from the oligarchs and living like tyrants. The average citizen can barely afford rent while oligarchs purchase whole islands. Something is very rotten.

  13. Why are non native hawaiians allowed to purchase and own such large amounts of Hawaiian property? Why was the Menehune (Alakoko) fish pond up for sale to begin with? How are donations received used? It saddens me to see the lands sold to the ultra rich and removed from public use and education.

    1. First of all let me say that I don’t like Zuckerberg, but Hawaii is American soil and if you want to start some sort of provincialism about acquiring land that’s a slippery slope. From what I understand he has to keep much of the native land pristine, which residents would NOT want to pay taxes to keep up. I will admit that a “single family” home doesn’t usually have 25 bathrooms, but hey, he’s rich and probably employs a lot of locals to entertain his friends and family. I’d say it’s jealousy

    2. It’s no different than me as a Michigander being able to buy a large plot of land in Colorado if I can afford it. Hawaii is not a foreign country, it is part of the United States.

    3. You have to understand that Zuckerberg (once again, whom I don’t like) is paying for the upkeep of all the property and has to protect the wildlife and native plants. It beats the heck out of being taxed for that upkeep. Also I’ll bet his total footprint on all his property is WAY LESS than the average. Finally, please stop the haole reference. It’s racist.

  14. All things Kauai are becoming tired news
    items. I don’t do Facebook, care less re
    Zuckerberg, but he purchases property on
    the island Legally!! Local owners sell to
    him because he wants to buy & has money.
    Grumble about him yet say nothing about
    All the other “outsiders” who purchase
    homes there to live or vacation. Rag on
    Tourists bc they destroy environment but
    take their 💰 💵 as they spend it. How
    do outsiders buy an island..Lanai..yet
    no moaning about that! Glad I moved
    away from HI

    1. I presume from your comment that you are a fellow attorney. This being so I suggest you research the dealings of Mr Zuckerberg and other parties employed by Zuckerberg at alia to acquire the parcels of land together with the observance of State Laws with regards to Easements.

      One may not like Mr Zuckerberg but I suggest that one should examine very carefully the actions of Mr Zuckerberg and his agents covert or overt and the underlying motivation before making generalized statements.

      1. OMG Rich! I’m not an atty so you lose because of your comment that I’m one.
        “Meta” bought legally not covertly as
        you imply. I worry about residents who
        say “our” island, “our” land. Long as
        HI is 50th State, U.S. citizens from
        any state can buy island property for
        sale. State/County agencies, Real estate
        firm handling the sale knew what was
        going to take place beforehand. You the
        public last to know. Thats the covert
        mentioned in your comment.

  15. This is very upsetting to people of our island that someone can buy up our land. When is the government going to step in and do something right for the locals

    1. Last time I checked Kauai is part of the United States. Mark Zuckerberg is an American citizen, and I assume you are too. The U.S. is not under communist rule, so why should the government stop any American citizen from purchasing land in this country? I doubt you would like it if the government said you can’t purchase land.

      1. Land law is complex. In Hawaii there are several rights to the Ocean, rights to Hawaiian Homelands, easements to historic sites not to mention the use of eminent domain for National Parks and Federal Government uses. All of which limit private land rights. Lockean property rights are history. One needs to separate the various rights so as to enable proprietors to make use of land but not restrict other rights to the land protected by Statute and Precedent. Rights from tenure not wealth.

    2. it is indeed sad what is happening to Kauai, but as someone who lived in Hawaii long ago, we all know that if the locals didn’t want him there they would find ways to let him know he’s not welcome. Im sure the problem is that money talks. That was not always the case there.

      1. You know anyone that wants or needs 25 bathrooms has to have a problem or two. Consider only staying there part time. Plus the houses on the lake in CA. Lake Tahoe. Plus Palo Alto. I’m thinkin maybe he’s got all that toilet paper we couldn’t find a couple years ago. I have no solutions but when one considers the employed have nots and the haves that really have a lot it IS something to ponder.

        1. I dunno, John. A lot of these tech millionaires started with nothing in college or in a garage. They didn’t inherit it like silver spoons or the royalty of some nations (including Hawaii originally). Point is that capitalism is the only type of system that allows a poor kid with an idea to become a millionaire. I’m for it.

    3. The government is corrupt, and it hasn’t changed for Hawaii since the Annexation.
      Zuckerberg should not , not not been allowed to purchase this property.

      1. Happy New Year Rob and Jeff. Well, a lot of interesting comments as usual. Even if the land is being “protected from development, it still is a bit overwhelming to keep reading that Mark seems to be acquiring a lot of acreage on Kauai. Also why are there so MANY bathrooms? How many bedrooms for he and his wife? No kids yet, right? Sign me up for housecleaning. I’m available.

  16. I’m all for the benefits of capitalism and what you earn you either get to keep or spend as you see fit But 57,000 sq. ft. for a house with 25 bathrooms on an Island like Kauai is just way over the top. I mean many people, myself included, think he’s full of c__p so maybe that’s why so many bathrooms but, Come On Man!

    1. How many bathrooms do the Hyatt and Marriott locations have?
      Mark’s Camp David?
      Come on man!
      Sounds like 1400 acres likely to stay most undeveloped?
      Personally I’m more concerned about how politicians get rich in public service.
      “come on man”
      Oh BTW, we own a home on Kauai as our primary residence.

    2. Maybe he’s like Howard Hughes and just needs a bathroom nearby at all times! And 25 bathrooms sounds like a hotel, but if he’s not charging people I guess it’s not.


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