Army Corps offers major compromise on Ala Wai flood control project

Army Corps offers major compromise on Ala Wai flood control project
A public meeting was held Tuesday night to address the Ala Wai flood prevention plan (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says if they can control storm runoff in Manoa, they can avoid building large basins elsewhere.

It’s the newest proposal for the Ala Wai flood project.

Leaders call it a compromise to quell years of public complaints and a pending lawsuit. And U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz says he is pleased the Army Corps is showing some flexibility.

However, some stakeholders in the $345 million project are still not convinced.

After years of study, they’re asking “why now”?

"We're happy if they're for real. But I think the timing is a little strange,” said Sidney Lynch, president of Protect Our Ala Wai Watersheds.

Another public meeting was held Tuesday night to address the Ala Wai flood prevention plan.

The Army Corp of Engineers says it may now be possible to avoid forcing any private landowners to sell their properties.

“We found that if we can address the sheer volume of water in Manoa, then we can actually attain the same level of protection and benefits,” said Project Manager Jeff Herzog.

The original plan was to build six basins in Palolo, Manoa and Makiki ― some as wide as two-thirds of a football field.

But the prospect of eminent domain prompted complaints from residents and even schools.

“Halau Ku Mana has always raised concerns about their ability to continue to use that stretch of stream for educational purposes, cultural practices, the loi, as well as the risk of when that event triggers that system, what happens to their campus," Herzog said.

“They’ve always raised that. So that was one thing that we certainly to look at and examine as we were looking at modifying our system.”

Herzog said his leaders in Washington, D.C. support the new direction, but nothing is official yet.

Residents who have filed a lawsuit against the previous plan said they aren’t convinced until they see a formal proposal.

"How can you say we got some resistance from Palolo, we got some resistance from Halau Ku Mana, so we'll magically take those out of the picture as if it's not going to make a difference on how it's going to impact on the Ala Wai Canal?" asked property owner Dave Watase.

As part of the new plan, Herzog says the Army Corps is looking at extending the four-foot high flood wall along the canal up to the Date Street Bridge to protect Iolani School and Ala Wai Elementary School.

“We can’t please everybody, but if we can help people to understand the need for the protection, then we can at least make it an acceptable project,” said Herzog.

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