Manoa board calls for pause in Ala Wai Flood Control Project
The Manoa Neighborhood Board unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday calling for a halt on an Ala Wai Canal flood control project to give stakeholders an opportunity to give feedback on a plan to add detention and catchment basins to the upper reaches of Manoa, Palolo and Makiki.
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The Manoa Neighborhood Board unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday calling for a halt on an Ala Wai Canal flood control project to give stakeholders an
opportunity to give feedback on a plan to add detention and catchment basins to the upper reaches of Manoa, Palolo and Makiki.
The board is expected to be the first of many neighborhood boards
to weigh in on the project, which recently came under community fire after it became evident that it was moving forward before all stakeholders had been afforded a chance to comment.
The Ala Wai Canal
was built in the 1920s to create land for Waikiki development. Waikiki, the epicenter of the state’s economy, is at risk if the canal overflows. Along with putting a 4-foot
concrete wall around the Ala Wai Canal, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to place six in-stream debris and detention basins in the upper reaches of the watershed that flows into Waikiki. The project also includes a stand-alone debris catchment and three multipurpose detention areas in open spaces through the developed watershed.
The U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers says it
conducted significant public participation and outreach from 2004 to 2015 to meet Federal
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements and follow Hawaii environmental compliance policies. However, many stakeholders say they were
excluded and never engaged, even some who stand to lose their
homes or have their properties significantly affected by flood-control structures.
“The project was
developed to minimize the impact to private lands and maximize the use of public lands, but some impacts to private lands are unavoidable,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said.
Manoa Neighborhood Board member Elton
Fukumoto, who drafted the resolution along with the board’s vice chairwoman Ellen Watson, said the resolution calls for “pushing the pause button on this project. We aren’t trying to kill it because we realize that something needs to be done. We are saying let’s put a hold on this project until the real stakeholders have had a chance to properly express their views.”
Watson said the scope of the project has changed dramatically since 2014 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers identified the Ala Wai Golf Course as the only holding basin.
“With all the changes
we need to be able to have a say in our community,” Watson said. “We, the residents, give up a lot to support the tourism industry
in Waikiki. This is over the top.”
Fukumoto said the board will transmit the resolution to state legislators, who
will be asked not to appropriate any money this
Gov. David Ige’s budget seeks $125 million to meet a federal cost share requirement for the $345 million project. Last month, the state Board of Land and Natural Resources granted the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers a right-of-entry permit to conduct due diligence related to the Ala Wai Canal flood control project on state land.
Rep. Dale Kobayashi (D-Manoa) told the board “this is one of the more unconscionable acts that I’ve seen in Hawaii. Legislatively there’s little chance of us telling the feds what to do, but we do have the funding mechanism available to us.”
In the meantime, complaints are growing from people of all ages and backgrounds. Students from Hokulani School’s Student Council told the board Wednesday that they fear the project will take away their recreational areas and block emergency access. They also say they worry about the safety of the structures.
Hokulani student Brennan Kim asked, “How safe will it be for all of our residents and students who live near the school?”
Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi told the board that she has requested that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state BLNR broaden the project’s stakeholders
and reopen the comment period.
“We are appalled that
private property would
be used and the private property did not know it,” Kobayashi said. “I wrote
to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and BLNR. They haven’t replied, but I intend to circle back.”
Mike Formby, the new interim City Council member for East Honolulu, said “if it’s true that the process was flawed, that’s inexcusable. The chair and I are both serious about making sure that the process is informed by the communities that are impacted. “