JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Framed amid hanging wires from the ceiling of the Biomedical Sciences building's bottom floor, a student makes her way toward the elevator. A year has passed since the devastating floods that ravaged most of the building as well as other buildings on the University of Hawaii campus.
Labs still off-limits to researchers
Biomedical Sciences professors are upset at the pace of recovery
MANOA FLOOD: ONE YEAR LATER
» Soaked with worry
When floodwaters swept over the University of Hawaii's flagship campus on Oct. 30, 2004, Rebecca Cann lost 25 years of research.
One year after the disaster, the biology professor still isn't back in her own lab, is working out of a temporary office and is frustrated with the slow pace of recovery. She's one of several professors who are still waiting to return to the Biomedical Sciences building, whose first floor is still months away from being repaired.
"I really don't want to sound ungrateful," she said. "They (university officials) were overwhelmed. But you've got to see how ludicrous this is."
University administrators agree the recovery has been slow, but say that's because of the extent of the damage. The flood cost an estimated $83.4 million in damage to the campus, and crews only recently finished the bulk of the work at Hamilton Library, which also sustained heavy damage in the flood.
The library's basement still needs extensive work.
STAR-BULLETIN / NOVEMBER 2004
The Library and Information Sciences room in the basement of Hamilton Library at UH-Manoa is shown here soon after the flood. The flood caused an estimated $83.4 million in damage to the campus, and crews only recently finished the bulk of the repair work at the library.
Meanwhile, bids for proposals to mitigate flooding to Hamilton and the Biomedical Sciences buildings aren't expected to go out until mid-2006.
"The flood had a huge impact on research and research productivity," said Gary Ostrander, UH vice chancellor for research and graduate education. "We had to blaze our own trails in terms of dealing with it."
He said he understands why some faculty members are concerned about recovery efforts. But he also said the university has stretched its resources to cover the cost of clean-up efforts. The university got $22 million in emergency appropriations from the state after the flood, $33 million for 2006-2007, and $28.4 million in capital improvements funds.
Everything from whole floors to light switches and elevators have had to be repaired, said Sam Callejo, vice president for administration.
In December, Cann likely will take over a vacated lab on a higher floor of the Biomedical Sciences building.
But until then, she's borrowing lab space from a professor on sabbatical.
For four months before she got into that lab, she couldn't do her research because she didn't have access to the state-of-the-art equipment needed for her DNA work on endangered Hawaiian birds.
The lapse almost cost her a $550,000 federal grant, which she was able to get a year's extension to complete.
Repairs to the university's Institute for Biogenesis Research were completed earlier this month after a $6 million renovation effort.
Steve Ward, the institute's interim director, said he was lucky the work was completed before the one-year mark, but added that the losses to some professor's research projects can never be recovered.
He also has concerns about what officials are doing to plan in the event of a second catastrophic flood.
"We need to fix this," he said. "If we don't do something about it, we're going to pay a big price later on."