THE KAUAI DAM CRISIS
Lingle seeks $14.3M in emergency funds
Lawmakers are praising Gov. Linda Lingle for quickly seeking $14.3 million in emergency funding to fix Kuhio Highway and inspect dams in the aftermath of Tuesday's killer flood on Kauai.
Late yesterday, Lingle sent the Legislature a request for money to repair flood damage to Kauai's Kuhio Highway and to inspect dams and reservoirs across the state and investigate legal issues surrounding the dam breach.
"We need to do an immediate statewide structural assessment of reservoirs and dams and review various options for their continued usage, including their impact on agriculture," Lingle said in her message to the Legislature.
The state funds would go to the Attorney General and the Agriculture, Defense, Transportation and Land and Natural Resources departments.
Earlier yesterday, Lingle told reporters that "it was clear we have to understand all the reservoirs."
Lingle said while some dams were no longer used by the plantations that built them, farmers still rely on them today for irrigation. But if the dams are unsafe, the state might have to remove them.
"I just hope $14 million is enough," said Senate President Robert Bunda, citing the major disaster on Kauai and the possible problems with other dams and reservoirs across the state.
Pointing out that Lake Wilson is in his Wahiawa-North Shore District, Bunda said flooding from the lake could jeopardize communities, such as Otake Camp, below the lake.
"Should we have a similar situation with Lake Wilson, this is a disaster waiting to happen," Bunda said.
Sen. Lorraine Inouye, Transportation and Government Operations Committee chairwoman, also welcomed Lingle's request, saying the three weeks of rain have damaged Hawaii crops and that Lingle's message also asks for money for agriculture assistance.
"I talked with the Department of Agriculture today, and they are looking at the entire state. This all needs to be addressed.
"We should support the governor in this request," Inouye (D, Hilo-Honokaa) said.
The money requested includes $11.1 million in state funds and $3.2 million in federal money, Lingle said.
Here is how Lingle wants to spend the money:
» Agriculture Department: $50,000 for staff and to hire experts to assess existing dams and the impact on agriculture if the dams were removed.
» Attorney General: $1 million for overtime, travel and expenses for staff and to hire outside consultants and experts to review legal issues related to dam and reservoir failures. Funds may also be used for expenses related to possible litigation.
» Defense Department: $2 million storm recovery efforts and hiring contractors to pump reservoirs.
» Land and Natural Resources Department: $5 million to survey private and government dams and identify "potential impacts or threats to areas downstream of the dams and reservoirs." The department would get an additional $284,000 to survey damage at state parks.
» Transportation Department: $2 million in highway funds to repair Kuhio Highway. An extra $4 million, which includes $3.2 million federal money, would fix road erosion on Kauai.