Citing safety concerns, state seeks $20,000 fine against owners of Wahiawa dam

Citing spillway safety concerns, DLNR seeks $20K fine for owners of a Wahiawa dam

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is seeking a $20,000 fine against the owners of the Wahiawa Dam at Lake Wilson.

DLNR engineers believe the dam’s concrete spillway isn’t large enough to prevent flooding downstream during extremely heavy rains.

They said the owners of the 115-year-old earthen dam ― Dole Food Co. and Sustainable Hawaii ― haven’t done enough to address safety deficiencies of the spillway.

But Dole disagreed.

“We have maintained the dam in a totally safe condition,” said Dan Nellis, Dole Food’s Hawaii general manager. “We have completed all of the improvements we have been asked to complete except we have not built the bigger spillway yet.”

The disagreement is over the number of repairs needed for the spillway. The state wants the spillway and dam to be designed to handle rains of more than 45 inches in a 24-hour period.

The landowners say those kinds of rains have never been recorded in the Wahiawa area, and the chances are slim that severe rain of that caliber would happen.

They estimate the cost of the repairs at around $15 million.

State Sen. Gil Riviere believes the dam is fairly well-maintained at this point.

“I believe it is in fairly good shape right now,” he said. “The dam served as a great flood prevention in this past rain event.”

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