Contradictory state goals beset Windward reservoir
As contractors worked to breach a section of the Kailua Reservoir in Waimanalo to reduce the threat of overflow, lawmakers were passing a bill setting aside money to restore the dam for flood-control purposes.
The contradictory moves on the future of the dam have split some residents and officials. While some back efforts to restore the reservoir to help mitigate future flash floods, others said restoring it to current safety standards would be too costly and unnecessary.
Gov. Linda Lingle recently signed HB 970, which sets aside $1 million to the Department of Agriculture for fiscal year 2005-2006 to improve and restore the Kailua Reservoir as a "flood mitigation device."
But that was not the intent, and $1 million is not enough to turn the dam into a flood mitigation device, one state official said.
"There is no intent to build a flood mitigation, because we don't have the money for it," said Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, director of state Civil Defense. Lee said there was no engineering study included in the bill to support the restoration, and questioned why lawmakers passed the bill.
Sandra Lee Kunimoto, director of the Department of Agriculture, had made a request for $2.5 million from the state Legislature to cover ongoing breach work costs for the reservoir, which was damaged by heavy rain earlier this year. The reservoir was built in the 1930s and shut down in 1993.
Lee said the reservoir would need to meet modern water capacity standards of at least 40 million gallons of water -- 10 times more the capacity it currently holds -- for flood control purposes.
"Who wants to give up their property?" he asked. Whatever decision is made, Lee said, "Let's make sure the entire Waimanalo community wants this."
Funding that supported current breach work on a portion of the reservoir came from Civil Defense emergency funds after a sinkhole threatened the reservoir's stability. An estimated $200,000 was spent to slice a V into a section of the reservoir to keep it from filling up with rainwater.
Breaching work at the reservoir continues. "Our immediate focus is the safety of the dam," Kunimoto said.
Sen. Brian Taniguchi, chairman of the state Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the bill was modified because there was uncertainty among some residents about the breach work. "Our approach was to provide some money and to provide some way so the community can be involved in the process," he said.
Rep. Tommy Waters (D, Lanikai-Waimanalo), who was instrumental in pushing for legislation to restore the reservoir, said, "I based my opinion on what the community wanted."
In an earlier draft of the bill, he said, there was a request to appropriate moneys to go toward the "controlled breaching of the Kailua Reservoir."
Waters said he spoke to longtime Waimanalo resident Kim Kalama, who said her home and other nearby homes would be wiped out if the reservoir was not there. Also, the reservoir gives residents time to evacuate during a flash flood, he said. The estimated cost to restore the reservoir is $8 million, Waters said.
Kalama said the breach will threaten residents downstream if a flash flood should occur. "I'm scared for them," said Kalama, who lives next to the reservoir.
But Wilson Kekoa Ho, chairman of the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board, said the community supports the state's ongoing work to breach a section of the reservoir -- and "it's not even a reality" to restore it.
Rosie Rowe, a longtime resident who lives near the reservoir, said she was not informed about plans to restore it. "I don't support the restoration," she said.