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Ala Wai a polluted engineering marvel

The original proposal called for the canal to extend through Kapiolani Park

By Bob Sigall

Special to the Star-Advertiser

LAST UPDATED: 9:53 p.m. HST, May 19, 2011

Ah, the Ala Wai.

The Ala Wai Canal drained the swamps of Waikiki and allowed our $11 billion tourism sector to thrive. It was built in 1926, and the original proposal called for it to continue through Kapiolani Park and meet the sea near the Natatorium.

In 1967 the Rotary Club of Waikiki proposed the extension to allow water to flush the canal's polluted waters. This aerial photograph was enhanced by an artist to show how it might look.

A low-lying area of Kapiolani Park would become a lake. But the canal would have to go through either the Kapa­hulu library or Jefferson Elementary. And there were concerns that trash would wash up on Waikiki beaches. The proposal fizzled out.

While the Ala Wai Canal is a polluted waterway, it's also an engineering achievement that has brought great prosperity to our state.


Bob Sigall, author of “The Companies We Keep” books, looks through his collection of old photos to tell stories about Hawaii people, places and companies. Email him at

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