Ala Wai Flood Project Funding Advances in Senate

Feb 26, 2019

Senate Bill 77 to provide state matching funds for Ala Wai Flood Project.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

State funding for the Ala Wai flood project is moving forward in the legislature, clearing a key committee today.

Michael Wyatt, chief, Civil and Public Works Branch, Army Corps of Engineers Hawai'i
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Congress appropriated 345-million dollars for the Ala Wai Flood Project, which includes constructing a 4-foot concrete wall on the Makai side of the canal and 5-6 water detention basins upstream.   Army Corps of Engineers Civil and Public Works Branch Chief, Michael Wyatt, says the flood management plan has been in the works for 20 years and is not final.

“These projects evolve over time and we present them to the public, initially, with a concept and then that concept is refined.  Right now we have about a 35 percent amount of detail in the current report. So, the design will continue to change.”

The State -- which owns the Ala Wai Canal -- has committed to provide $125-million in matching funds and can opt to pay it back over a 30-year period.  The City and County of Honolulu has agreed to purchase the private properties upstream and take over the project once completed.  City Managing Director, Roy Amemiya.

Roy Amemiya, managing director, City and County of Honolulu
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“We’ve committed to the operations and maintenance into perpetuity and we’ve also committed to any betterments that we feel would benefit the people of this island. For example, make the pedestrian walkway near the Ala Wai Canal, which is going to have some visual blight because of the wall going up.”

The flood management plan attempts to mitigate a one-hundred-year flood -- the worst case scenario -- to protect Waikiki.  But, Senator Kurt Fevella says the Corps of Engineers did not fully disclose the full scope of the project and should scrap it.

Sen. Kurt Fevella
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“When I read this, federal money, Ala Wai, flood, this and that, all I thinking is Ala Wai.  You guys are talking going deep into Manoa.  If you guys serious about this, instead of going into the mountain, putting cement, you guys should go over there and dredge the ala Wai.  Use all the money you get, make it deeper ‘cause that’s what the Ala Wai was for.”

The Senate Ways and Means Committee passed Bill 77.  Chair,  Donovan DelaCruz, also included funding options.

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chair, Ways and Means Committee
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

“If the Council of Revenues actually goes down on projections on revenue, we are gonna be tight.  If it comes down to it and we have to pay for it and there’s not enough from the General Fund, the state may consider a portion of the City and County of Honolulu’s TAT for the 30-year payment plan.  So, that’s just gonna be in the committee report.”

After the decision-making, Dave Watase, whose property in Palolo Valley has been identified for a retention basin, says most of the Neighborhood Boards in the area oppose the project and he intends to keep fighting.

Dave Watase, Palolo Valley property owner

“These aren’t just little detention basins, they’re huge:  30-40 foot high, 150 feet thick and they hold millions of gallons of water.  And, with all the debris going all the way up to the mountain ridges, it’s easily gonna clog.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.