Crews Shore Up Oahu Hillsides

Tom Fuertes
Tom Fuertes

KAILUA (KHNL) -- Rocks and debris came tumbling down a year ago at Waimea Bay, on Oahu's North Shore. The mess shut down a stretch of Kamehameha Highway for almost a week. It caused a traffic nightmare for North Shore residents. The department of transportation removed large boulders and secured the hillside with protective netting.

And they're doing this for other parts of the island that are also prone to rockslides. Tuesday afternoon, crews were working on a hillside near Castle Junction. They say they're doing this as a preventive measure, to avoid a Waimea Bay-type incident.

Crews rappel down a steep hillside, shoring up this section along Kalanianaole Highway near Kailua. They lay these erosion mats to prevent a natural disaster from spilling onto the road.

"That will stabilize the mountain, and kind of hold everything in place if the thing does erode," said Tom Fuertes, the project foreman.

He said the goal is to prevent an incident similar to the one that crippled the Waimea Bay community a year ago.

"Eventually it will erode and have a landslide," said Fuertes.

These mats lay on top of a chemically treated layer, the first of a three-step process in this project.

The green layer on the hillside is called hydro-seed, basically stuff to help the grass grow, and a chain link mesh will be secured to metal anchors, to help stabilize the section.

So once the work is complete, it'll look something like this: a hillside secured by a protective mesh netting, that greatly reduces the chance of a rockslide tying up traffic along the highway.

"Safety factors for the public and everybody, I guess. make it safe for everybody," said Fuertes.

And that focus on safety extends to other hillsides across the island.

Next on the DOT list are hillsides in Wahiawa and Makapu'u. They are spending more than $16 million for these projects.