Community group heads to court to fight Ala Wai flood project

(HNN File (custom credit))
Updated: Oct. 21, 2019 at 9:45 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A judge on Monday listened to opening statements and witness testimony for a motion seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the Ala Wai flood project.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to build flood control structures to protect communities in the Ala Wai Watershed down to Waikiki.

The $350 million project includes a roughly 4-foot high wall along the Ala Wai Canal and large basins upstream.

“Current modeling indicates that a 100-year event would result in damage to more than 6,000 structures with approximately $1.14 billion in structural damage and damage to critical infrastructure,” said Moana Yost, deputy corporation counsel.

[Read more: Army Corps offers major compromise on Ala Wai flood control project]

The community group Protect Our Ala Wai Watersheds filed a lawsuit against the project last month.

A final Environmental Impact Statement has yet to be accepted by the state or the city. The plaintiff’s attorney said officials are making decisions without the benefit of that completed document.

“The state and city do not know what the impacts of the project are to views of the Ala Wai, to historic properties, to six streams, to loi. State and city officials rushed prematurely to obligate state and city funding,” said David Frankel, the attorney for Protect Our Ala Wai Watersheds.

Congress has already appropriated about $220 million for the project.

Under a memorandum of agreement signed last month, the city would maintain the system as long as the state provided the required funding.

The state plans to raise up to $125 million by selling Certificates of Participation (COPS).

“The state is already employing state funds and state resources to sell certificates of participation. The state has retained bond counsel to implement its project,” said Frankel.

An attorney for the state said that state funds aren’t being used to implement the project prior to the acceptance of a final EIS.

Deputy Attorney General David Day told the court that the money raised would be held in escrow until the acceptance of a final EIS or possible supplemental EIS.

“How will plaintiff be irreparably harmed if the Department of Budget and Finance sells the COPS, raises the funds, and only releases them after the EIS process is completed?” he questioned.

The city still needs to sign a project partnership agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the project to move forward.

The hearing is scheduled to continue on Tuesday.

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