Corps of Engineers tries to address ‘misunderstanding’ about flood project

Army Corps of Engineers tries to set the record straight on flood control project

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Army Corps of Engineers is trying to change public perception about a massive project designed to prevent flooding from mauka to Waikiki.

But there’s distrust from residents who’ve come out in force against it.

Part of the Ala Wai Flood Risk Management Study includes a plan at Kanewai Community Park by Hokulani Elementary. The Corps is proposing to build a 9-foot-high earthen berm, which would go around three-quarters of the field.

Artist rendering of the Woodlawn detention basin in Manoa.
Artist rendering of the Woodlawn detention basin in Manoa. (Source: US Army Corps of Engineers)

“The key for folks to understand is that the intent is not to limit the use by Hokulani Elementary,” said Jeff Herzog, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“The intent is to not hold water on a permanent basis. It’s to allow natural flows to continue through those box culverts,” said Herzog.

Wendy Lum lives next to Kanewai Park and opposes the project along with many other residents and some schools including Hokulani.

"I don't believe them at all. They have a bad track record," she said.

The Army Corps says its Ala Wai flood control project is needed because each year there’s a 1 percent chance of a “high-risk low probability flood,” which would impact Makiki, Manoa and Palolo through urban Honolulu and down to Waikiki.

After 20 years of planning and $345 million in funding by Congress, the project includes five detention basins. The largest in upper Manoa is 300 feet wide and 35 feet tall and made out of mostly natural materials and some concrete.

"While the Corps of Engineers is not trying to force things along, the perception or the misunderstanding from the community may be that we are coming out and we are trying to construct something," he said.

Herzog says 31 properties would be impacted with most requiring an easement. Four Palolo parcels might need to be purchased.

"As a homeowner, I can appreciate and I do not fault them at all for being concerned and I appreciate them for being engaged," he said.

The project is still in the design phase and the governor’s request for $125 million in funding was not approved by the legislature.

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