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Despite potential flooding threat, Wahiawa dam owners get more time to make repairs

Updated: Apr. 13, 2021 at 10:14 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Dole Food Company Hawaii, one of the owners of the Wahiawa Dam at Lake Wilson, has been given more time to make improvements to the aging facility.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources agreed after company General Manager Daniel Nellis pleaded for the extension. “We’re growing pineapples, we’re not growing money,” he said.

The state fined them $20,000 for not making their required safety upgrades and originally imposed a 60-day deadline for the improvements.

But after a meeting with DLNR officials, Nellis did get more time ― possibly up to 18 months.

Wahiawa Dam
Wahiawa Dam(HI Dept. of Land and Natural Resources)

Carty Chang, chief engineer for DLNR, did point out that the company has known about some of the safety issues since 2009.

And, he added, “If the dam were to fail it would result in the probable loss of human life.”

Wahiawa Dam was constructed in 1906 as a source of irrigation water for sugar cane farms. Behind the dam is Lake Wilson and three billion gallons of water.

Chang said a failure could result in catastrophic flooding for Otake Camp, Waialua and Haleiwa town.

Nellis, meanwhile, said repairs could cost upwards of $15 million.

Cracks in the Wahiawa Dam as pointed out by DLNR
Cracks in the Wahiawa Dam as pointed out by DLNR(HI Dept. of Land and Natural Resources)

“We’re doing the very best we can to keep things going forward,” he said.

“But we’re farmers and we need a break. We’re going to do what we’re asked to do but we need the ability to find that money.”

He also told the state land board members that there are investors interested in buying the property, including the state, to take over the dam for hydroelectric power.

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