Opponents of huge Ala Wai flood control project secure a win in court

Opponents of huge Ala Wai flood control project secure a win in court
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Source: HNN File)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Opponents of the $350 million Ala Wai watershed flood control project have secured an important win in court.

“I’ve been fighting this for over a year," said Palolo resident Dave Watase.

On Tuesday, state Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Crabtree ruled that no money can be committed to the project until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed, which could take quite a bit more time.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was looking to condemn Dave Watase’s property in Palolo to prevent a 100-year flood that could cause $1 billion in damage in Waikiki and beyond.

But a recent proposal may have have his property spared.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would also study the possibility of building all the detention basins in Manoa to avoid taking private properties elsewhere.

The state and city took months to agree on a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is the primary agency in charge of the project.

The agreement calls for the state to provide $125 million of the $345 million project.

Because the state Legislature didn’t provide the money, the Ige administration came up with an alternative plan to borrow the money to meet its commitment. The state claims that if it didn’t come up with the money, the federal government might withdraw its support ― worth about $220 million.

Attorney David Frankel, who convinced the judge to issue the injunction, said the ruling will not halt work because the federal government can continue the design process without state money.

“It stops the project in the sense that there are very important financial transactions that were supposed to happen tomorrow on the East Coast. Those transactions are now stopped. So, it should prevent this chunk of money that the city was counting on from coming through," said Frankel.

He also said the threat that the federal funds would be lost was “fear mongering."

Even so, Frankel says the ruling will slow the process considerably and open the door to more public participation.

“Unfortunately it had to come down to litigation. But the fight still goes on," said Watase.

The city and state didn’t have an immediate comment on the ruling.

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