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Obama declares federal disaster on Maui after floods

  • BRYAN BERKOWITZ / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

    Heavy equipment was being used Tuesday to remove tons of debris from the Iao Valley following last month’s heavy rains and flooding that overflowed the banks of the Wailuku River.

President Obama declared a federal disaster for Maui following heavy rains and flooding last month that changed the course of the Wailuku River and caused major damage to the Iao Valley State Monument.

Obama signed a federal disaster declaration today, making federal aid available for emergency work and the repair and replacement of facilities damaged by severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides on Maui between Sept. 11 and Sept. 14.

The Iao Valley state park remains closed as work continues to remove tons of debis, broken concrete and asphalt from the 6.5-acre site that’s popular with tourists and residents.

On the night of Sept. 13, the valley and its river were overwhelmed by waters that surged from a rate of under 100 million gallons per day to an estimated 3 billion gallons per day.

Iao Valley State Monument was swamped. Concrete walkways, pedestrian bridges and the parking lot were either damaged or destroyed. Floodwaters cut into a nearly vertical cliff below the parking lot, eating away 20 feet of grassy park and undermining the cliff’s stability.

The violent flood swept away trees and large boulders from the original riverbed and sent them hurtling into a new waterway that doubled and tripled in width in some areas.

Larry Pacheco, Maui branch manager for the Division of State Parks, said it will take four to six months to reopen the park, depending on the weather. Estimated costs range from $6 million to $15 million.

In the meantime the state is losing about $20,000 a month in parking fees, he said.

Regan estimated that it would take six to eight months to reopen the county’s Kepaniwai Park, with the first priority of stabilizing another parking lot undermined by floodwaters. He said total costs are estimated in excess of $10 million.

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  • My pals and I used to fish in Wailuku River, nee Iao stream. Everyone knew the majority of the mountain stream was diverted to sugar cane’s reservoirs at its mouth. When the “big water” flowed past Kepaniwai Park after heavy rains decades ago, it was no big deal. Whose big idea was it that stopped the plantation diversion of water without a plausible solution? Basically, the plantation diversion was like an overflow puka in a bathtub. Hmmm…I wonder what would happen if we plugged the overflow port? And it happened.

    • not sure any diversion would have mitigated a surge of 30 times the normal flow of water into the stream. it’s not just the surge of 3 billion gallons of water a day, but days of huge amounts of water soaking into the grounds and building up behind natural dams formed by forest debris and boulders. as those dams break up flash floods of water are released and damages are increased even more.

  • the environmentalist who own Maui, let them call there friends in the EPA and have them fix it. the EPA get’s millions of dollars from the federal government, that we taxpayers give, so let the EPA take care of it.

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