State Goes to Work Inspecting Kauai's Dams

Waita Reservoir
Waita Reservoir
Maj. Gen. Robert Lee
Maj. Gen. Robert Lee

KAUAI (KHNL) - State officials say they are taking positive and aggressive steps in maintaining dam safety in Hawaii.

It starts with inspecting all 54 dams on Kauai, including the Ka Loko dam that unexpectedly burst last Tuesday.

"This is a solid rock outcropping and I was given figures, less than one percent chance of a catastrophic failure," said Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, state adjutant general. "So I consider Ka Loko dam, in its current condition, as stabilized at this point."

So far, engineers have inspected half of Kauai's dams, and found no significant problems with any of them. Engineers are expected to complete their inspections by the end of the week.

State officials have asked them to also inspect the rest of the dams in the state -- 51 on Maui, 13 on Hawaii, and 15 on Oahu. Those inspections should be done by the end of April.

Officials want to make sure all reservoirs have a properly maintained spillway, to allow water to drain.

The U.S. Geological Survey will temporarily install monitors, to watch water levels at four reservoirs on Kauai. Light sensors will also be installed to monitor the dam faces.

And the state plans to hire more staff to constantly monitor all of the state's dams and reservoirs.

"We expect to do and ask owners of dams to continue to do updates on downstream impacts, as well as inspections, monitorings, and inspections of their reservoirs," said Peter Young, director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Now that the Morita Reservoir is deemed safe, work can soon start to repair the Kuhio Highway.

The plan is put rocks and boulders on the embankment on both sides of the highway.

"With that, we think we can get in there with a one shot deal and complete the restoration of that highway," said Rod Haraga, director of the state Dept. Of Transportation.

Haraga says the DOT must still get permits before work starts, including those to clear the drainage ditch below the highway. The DOT must also get permission to be on private land during the construction work.

Haraga says Kuhio Highway will remain open during the work, although it will only be one lane. He did not give a time frame on when the work would be completed.