Army Corps of Engineers proposes wall along Ala Wai Canal

Ala Wai Flood wall proposal

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The wide open promenade feel of the Ala Wai could be transformed with a wall to prevent a 100 year flood.

Waikiki Neighborhood Board Chair Bob Finley said the 3 to 5 foot barrier is part of an Army Corps of Engineers proposal to address a fatal flaw.

As Finley told Hawaii News Now, "Ala Wai was never designed for flood control."

Raging floodwaters spilling over the banks threatens property, lives, and critical infrastructure. Finley added that "would devastate our residents and probably wipe out  3 or 4 billion dollars of visitor input."

We spoke to Project Manager Athline Clark by phone. Clark said of the Ala Wai wall, "that's one part of the proposal. The main focus is to actually mitigate or retain majority of water in upper watershed and to release it slowly."

That would involve building berms, or detention basins in Manoa, Makiki, and Palolo to slow water rushing to the canal from mere minutes, to many hours.

"They want to slow down the water flow instead of coming down in a giant tsunami wave" explained Finley.

The project could top 200-million dollars. If Congress approved the plan, federal funds would cover 65 percent, but the State and City would have to cover the rest.

It's a tough sell for residents. "It would look terrible, I think" said Linda Leveen.

She has lived in Waikiki for 20 years and loves to walk her dogs along the canal.

"I would hate to see something going up, maybe a couple of feet would be okay" said Leveen. "It would just ruin the whole area, this whole open promenade feel that the Ala Wai has right now."

Project Manager Althine Smith said of initial input from the first public meetings, "Some concerns about what's proposed at Ala Wai, but overall positive."

Finley added, "Just like a hurricane, it's probably overdue already, but this is a huge amount of funding."

However, the State can't afford to do nothing, with a potential ticking time bomb, hitting the heart of its tourism industry. In Finley's words, "It would devastate the economy of the city and State and just be a total disaster."

It's far from a done deal.

It's a proposal that requires more public input and Congressional approval before any construction could start. That wouldn't likely happen before 2020.

Follow Tannya Joaquin:       

Copyright 2014 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.