Massive flood control project for Waikiki would gobble up schools’ outdoors space

Schools fight against controversial Ala Wai Canal project

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some schools are pushing back against a huge Army Corps of Engineers project aimed at protecting Waikiki from a massive flood.

The federal project, which has also caused concern among some homeowners, has the green light from Congress, but students at Hokulani Elementary in Manoa say it’s a bad idea.

“I was like why would they want to put the detention basin on our field?” said Kaylah Kwon, a student council member who testified recently at the Manoa Neighborhood Board with fellow fifth graders, Alexis Bueza and Brennan Kim.

The federal project would build six debris and detention basins in Palolo, Manoa and Makiki to prevent a 100-year flood event from devastating Waikiki, which could cost a billion dollars in damage.

Laurie Luczak, Hokulani’s principal, says a planned basin in Kanewai Park next to the school would wipe out their critical outdoor space.

“It’s like, we can’t lose our field. What are we going to do about PE, what are we going to do about recess? We use this when we have emergencies,” she said.

It’s a bold move for a school to speak out against a project like this, but the Luczak says she did it to protect the school, her students and teach them a learning lesson.

In a letter last month to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DLNR, Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi complained of lack of transparency and said “schools such as Ala Wai Elementary, Hokulani Elementary and Iolani Schools are opposed to the project for the health and safety of their students, families, faculty, and staff.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says there was significant public outreach and “the project is economically justified, environmentally compliant and has received authorization from Congress for construction.”

Congress appropriated $345 million for the project and the governor has $125 million in his proposed budget.

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