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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 78° Today's Paper


Ala Wai a polluted engineering marvel

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A proposal in 1926 to build the Ala Wai Canal past the Waikiki Shell, to Kapiolani Park and then to the ocean by the Natatorium didn’t work out. Above is an enhanced drawing of how the path of the canal would have looked if plans were approved.

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 sigall@yahoo.com.

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