Major repairs set for Nuuanu reservoir

Major repairs set for Nuuanu reservoir
Barry Usagawa
Barry Usagawa

NUUANU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A rundown reservoir in Nuuanu is about to undergo major repairs. The Board of Water Supply project will be funded by operating revenues from customers, but it's unlikely that the once popular fishing spot will re-open to the public.

The land under Nuuanu Reservoir No. 4 belongs to the state, but the infrastructure is owned and operated by the Board of Water Supply. The reservoir was built in 1910, but these days it's primarily used for flood control for homes downstream.

"As dam owners, we take the responsibility very seriously and we have to put in the monies to make sure that it meets dam safety rules," explained Barry Usagawa of the Board of Water Supply.

The $1.5 million repair project will be paid for with rate payer funds. Problems include a rusting bridge and broken windows on the intake tower. A buried sluice gate also limits control of the water levels.

"All the gates need to be repaired, but the bottom gate is underwater and submerged in sediment, and we need to be able to dredge that out and fix that gate," said Usagawa.

The goal is to keep the water level low, thereby reducing the risk of a dam failure.

"Scientists are saying that with climate change, expect more intense storms so we need to be able to increase the storage capacity of the dam so that it doesn't reach the spillway," Usagawa said.

This is one of 138 dams regulated under the state's dam safety program. 66 of them are in "poor" or "unsatisfactory" shape, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Nuuanu Reservoir No. 4 is considered to be in "fair" condition.

A DLNR spokesperson said the state ended its popular catfishing program at the reservoir in 2009 due to budget cuts and BWS repairs. The area is off-limits, but a 22-year-old man died after ignoring warning signs and jumping off the tower into the water in 2011.

The work is set to begin next spring. After the repairs are done, the BWS hopes to turn the dam over to the state, but the DLNR spokesperson says that would be unlikely due to liability concerns.

"It's interesting that somehow the Board of Water Supply is now maintaining a flood control structure when it's not even in our primary core responsibility," said Usagawa.

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