COURTESY PROMETHEUS CONSTRUCTION
Workers removed a loose boulder from the cliff face late last month.
Thirty homes in Moanalua Valley will be evacuated as the Army removes boulders and places netting to stabilize the hillside
A HELICOPTER was scheduled to airlift boulders from the hillside above homes in Moanalua Valley this morning and place netting to prevent loose rocks from tumbling down the hill.
For safety reasons, some residents are having to vacate their homes during the airlifts.
"In a way it's an inconvenience, but we're happy something is being done," said Aileen Maeshiro, whose home is on Ala Aoloa Place.
Thirty homes along Ala Aolani Street and Ala Aoloa Loop were identified for evacuation from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The sidewalk on the Diamond Head side of Ala Aolani Street also was to be closed.
The airlifts are part of the final phase of a $1.4 million rockfall mitigation project paid by the U.S. Army. The property above the homes is part of Tripler Army Medical Center.
The Army Corps of Engineers identified 13 large boulders for removal. The boulders were 4 to 8 feet in diameter and weighed 4 to 13 tons. When contractor Prometheus Construction started work to break up the boulders into smaller pieces in July, the workers found a 14th boulder, General Manager Cliff Tillotson said.
The workers placed the boulder fragments into 50 sacks, each weighing about 1,000 pounds. The helicopter will lift the sacks from the hillside and place them on a lawn Ewa of the hospital. The rocks will be hauled away tomorrow.
The helicopter will also transport two steel cable nets to the hillside. One is 50 feet tall; the other, 75 feet. Both are 100 feet wide. Prometheus has already drilled 10-foot-long anchors into the hillside for the PVC-coated nets. The workers have also drilled 20-foot-long bolts into some rock faces to prevent fragments from breaking off and tumbling down the hill.
The Army decided to remove them after boulders, rocks and mud slid down the hillside Dec. 7, 2003. But the Army did not accept legal responsibility for the property damage at 32 homes, said state Rep. Glenn Wakai (D, Moanalua Valley-Salt Lake).
At the time, Moanalua had been the latest community to experience devastation from large rocks tumbling down hillsides.
In Nuuanu Valley, Dara Rei Onishi was killed while she slept when a 6-ton boulder crashed into her parents' home Aug. 9, 2002. Three months later, residents of a Hawaii Kai condominium complex were forced to evacuate after a boulder rolled from the hillside behind their homes and crashed into two parked cars Thanksgiving evening.
Two years after Onishi died, another boulder rolled down the same Nuuanu hillside into a neighbor's home on Henry Street, nearly striking one of the residents. Three days later a 10-ton boulder slid down a hill into the back of a home in Nanakuli.
When Maeshiro moved into her home in 1974, she was not concerned about rocks or mud sliding down the hill.
A 10-ton boulder sat above homes in Moanalua Valley in September. It has since been broken up.
"We weren't affected by loose boulders," she said.
Her outlook changed following the events of the past few years.
"We now realize we are in danger of some accident happening," Maeshiro said.
Glenn Miyashika was not concerned about rock- and mudslides either when he moved into his home on Aoloa Place 19 years ago. About five years ago, he walked up to the drainage ditch that runs through the back of his property and found it was filled with dirt and boulders.
He said he asked the city to clear the drainage ditch and was told it was his responsibility. He said he cleared the leaves and dirt from the ditch but was trying to figure out how he was going to handle the large boulders. He is glad Prometheus workers broke those boulders into smaller pieces and will be hauling them away.
"If they didn't take the big ones, the next one was going to bounce off them" and continue down the hill, Miyashika said.
U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye secured the funding for the project. Maeshiro and Miyashika also credited Wakai.