Ala Wai project will affect 37 private properties
A $345 million project to lessen flood risks at the Ala Wai Canal is moving quickly through the state Legislature despite concerns from property owners.
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A $345 million project to lessen flood risks at the Ala Wai Canal is moving quickly through the state Legislature despite concerns from property owners, including 37 who would be directly affected.
Thirty-seven private-property owners would endure anything from construction inconveniences to losing features or portions of their property to mitigation efforts or structures, said Michael Wyatt, chief of the Army Corps of Engineers Civil and Public Works Branch.
About four owners would lose their entire properties to the plan, he said.
The plan calls for building a 4-foot concrete wall around the canal and placing six in-stream debris and detention basins in the upper reaches of the Ala Wai watershed that flows into Waikiki. The project also includes pump stations, a stand-alone debris catchment and three multipurpose detention areas in open spaces throughout the watershed.
Some of the affected private-property owners turned out Thursday to voice their opposition to Senate Bill 77 during a dual hearing before the House committees on Energy and Environmental Protection and Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs. The bill would provide $125 million to meet a federal cost-share requirement for the project, which has been gathering steam since receiving $220 million in congressional funding last year.
Dave Watase and Sidney Lynch are among the negatively affected owners who want the process to slow down. They say the community was not informed of the project’s entire scope. They also want to give the Army Corps of Engineers and its city and state partners time to gather more community feedback, consider lower- footprint alternatives and develop an adequate maintenance plan to address future concerns.
“We want to protect Waikiki, but we think there are much better ways,” said Watase, who stands to lose the Palolo lands that he had earmarked for his children’s future to the project.
Lynch argued that before taking private property to build large concrete structures, the corps should reconsider an earlier option to place a large pump in the Ala Wai Canal. She said the corps’ environmental impact statement said that solution would cost less and negate the need for a Waikiki wall or upstream solutions.
Wyatt said the pump solution was discarded because it didn’t adequately protect areas above Waikiki.
Despite community pushback, state representatives from both committees advanced an amended version of the bill clearing another crucial hurdle for the project, which has been some two decades in the making.
“We did listen and hear the concerns about the lack of consultation with community members,” said Rep. David A. Tarnas (D, North Kona-South Kohala-North Kohala). “But we do want to make sure that the funding for the project will truly be viable. But we will be vigilant in making sure that they follow through with that consultation.”
Wyatt told lawmakers that the corps, along with city and state officials, went “above and beyond” notification requirements. Still, he said the parties would provide project updates at a town hall meeting Tuesday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Manoa Valley District Park, Gymnasium No. 1.
That meeting, which seeks to address emerging community concerns, comes in advance of a March 22 deadline for the bill to clear the House Finance Committee.
Jeff Herzog, corps project manager for the Ala Wai project, said Congress already had authorized specific design features, including the Ala Wai wall and the retention and detention basins, based on “engineering, topography and modeling.”
However, Herzog said that the community could still influence the “project’s aesthetics and exact footprint.”
>> What: Town hall meeting on Ala Wai Canal flood project
>> When: Tuesday, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
>> Where: Manoa Valley District Park, Gymnasium No. 1