Abandoned flood project in Hauula cost taxpayers $146K ... and flooding is still a problem

Effort to help flood-prone North Shore neighborhood backfires at taxpayer expense

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The cracked pipe on the coastline near the Pokiwai Stream is the only reminder of the city’s last attempt to ease the chronic flooding problem in Hauula.

Hawaii News Now recently reported that residents of Haaula are frustrated by government inaction in helping solve the flooding problem.

And critics say they’re unhappy that taxpayer money was wasted in the city’s last effort.

“Bad use of money and not enough communication with the community where the money is being spent," said City Councilmember Ann Kobayashi.

This is what the duckbill valve system looked like when it was installed eight years ago.
This is what the duckbill valve system looked like when it was installed eight years ago. (Source: None)

Back in 2012, the city spent $128,000 to install what’s known as a duckbill valve system to ease the flooding along the Pokiwai Stream.

During heavy rains, the stream gets backed up by sand at the mouth, causing flooding in nearby homes and yards.

To prevent that, the duckbill system was supposed to transport excess streamwater to the ocean while blocking seawater and sand from flowing back into the stream.

“It’s basically a one-way valve that’s normally shut tight and if there’s enough pressure behind it, the water would push that value open," said Mark Yonamine, director of the City Department of Design and Construction.

But many in the Hauula community believed that the project was worsening the flooding problem.

Within months of its installation, the public outcry forced the city to dismantle the project, costing another $18,000.

“After we put it in we in, we were getting calls that it’s not working," Yonamine said.

“They felt the water was getting stagnant and they were having odor issues so they wanted the city to remove the duckbill.”

But Yonamine defended the city’s use of the technology.

“The duckbill valve has been used at other locations on the island and we’ve had no problems. It’s worked perfectly at other locations,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hauula residents are still dealing with flooding. They’re counting on the state Department of Transportation to consistently clear the mouth of the stream under the highway.

Copyright 2020 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.