Federal funding may finally flow for Ala Wai Canal flood control

WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. House has approved a measure that includes $199 million for a flood control project in the Ala Wai watershed, including the Ala Wai Canal that borders Waikiki.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), was among those who voted in favor of the Water Resources Development Act, which passed the House Wednesday by a vote of 408-2.

"Risk experts in Hawaii have warned that the Ala Wai watershed's high vulnerability to devastating flooding could result in financial devastation to the tune of over $1.1 billion," she said on the House flood in support of the bill.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that a so-called "hundred-year flood" would damage more than three thousand structures around the Ala Wai, including large areas of McCully and Moiliili.

The corps has been looking at a project that would include retention basins to hold back floodwaters upstream in Manoa and Palolo. But the preliminary plan also includes a four-foot high wall on the banks of the Ala Wai to contain some of the flooding.

Some residents are afraid that will spoil the view.

"I definitely wouldn't want a four-foot-high solid wall on the Ala Wai, because that's one of the last views that we have in Honolulu, where it's sort of mesmerizing when you drive down the Ala Wai (Blvd.)," said Linda Wong of the Diamond Head/Kapahulu Neighborhood Board.

Some paddlers who use the Ala Wai Canal reacted positively to the news.

"Besides 'thank God' -- I'm grateful that hopefully this will be cleaned up," said Jane Hinrich, a paddler with the Kamehameha Canoe Club.

However, they also want to make sure that any flood control measures don't affect their access.

"One, the health of the waterway would be important, and also not to be cut off from paddling, because paddling here from this park is year-round," said Teri Skillman, who also paddles with the Kamehameha Canoe Club.

The measure also includes $62.5 million for small river and harbor improvement projects in Hawaii and Pacific island territories. It now heads to the senate.

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