A major project to clear out the Ala Wai Canal is starting to take shape. The final Environmental Impact Statement for the dredging and repair work was just released, but the work is expected to sideline some paddling teams.
"There's all this garbage that's coming down from the streams. It's always dirty," said Waikiki resident Denita Waltz.
Crews will dredge the two-mile canal along with part of the Manoa-Palolo Drainage Canal near Iolani School. The $18 million project also includes repairing broken wall sections and dealing with damaged stairs.
Some paddlers believe the dredging is a waste of money since they didn't notice much of a difference after the last time, 15 years ago.
"It didn't improve the conditions around the Ala Wai. And to be honest, when they bring up all the dirt and muck, it kind of just stirred the pot and that's when people started getting a little more sick," said Peter Valenti, a coach for Healani Canoe Club.
Officials with the Department of Land Natural Resources said the focus of the project isn't improving the water quality. The main goal is to increase the canal's capacity to reduce the flood risk to Waikiki.
"I think it's a very good project. I'd love to see it happen again. I think it should be done on a regular basis," said Robert Finley, chair of the Waikiki Neighborhood Board. "The Ala Wai Canal is a very important part of Waikiki, especially heavy rains when the water drains off.
The dredging will impact canoe clubs that train in the canal as staging areas will be set up at Ala Wai Neighborhood Park and Magic Island.
Work could start in late 2018, depending on permit approvals and the contractor that is selected. The project is expected to take about a year to complete.