Feds to inspect state dams
The survey by a team of specialists follows FEMA guidelines for the Oct. 15 quakes
HILO » A team of eight dam safety specialists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin a statewide inspection of 84 "high hazard" dams beginning Monday, the Corps announced yesterday.
The inspections are funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of its assessments following the Oct. 15 earthquakes.
The specialists will arrive on the Big Island tomorrow, and work will begin Monday, the corps said. Inspections will continue for the following two weeks on the Big Island, Oahu and Kauai, they said. Inspections on Maui by the Bureau of Reclamation ending today will be substituted for corps inspections.
The term "high hazard" does not mean the dams are likely to fail, but rather that there would be significant damage downstream if there were an accident.
A number of inspections already have taken place. Dam owners and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources are supposed to inspect dams regularly, said Bruce McClure, of the Hawaii County Department of Public Works.
After the Ka Loko Dam failure on Kauai on March 14, all state dams were inspected.
Dams were surveyed after the Oct. 15 earthquakes, but officials say they want to do more inspections.
Such repeated inspections are needed, said Mayor Harry Kim. "That's why we have car inspections every year," he said. Dams are affected by time and events, he said.
Corps of Engineers dam specialist Derek Chow said the new round of inspections will be done according to Land Department safety guidelines, which call for checking dams two to four weeks after an earthquake.
"Things don't become evident right away," he said.
The guidelines call for looking at dams within 75 miles of the source of an earthquake of between magnitude 6 and 7. The quakes on Oct. 15 were magnitude 6.7 and 6.0.
The primary inspection method will be for the specialists to look for cracks, "boils" or disturbances in water that might indicate a leak, and other problem indicators, Chow said. Besides direct damage from a quake, problems might arise from a hundred-year-old dam constructed according to standards that are no longer permitted, Chow said.
414 sign up for aid
KEAUHOU, Hawaii » At the end of the first day of Disaster Recovery Centers being open on the Big Island yesterday, 414 people had signed up for earthquake relief, Federal Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Patricia Brach said.
The number included 51 at the center at the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort, 108 at the center at the YMCA in Waimea and the 255 who registered early by phone or Internet, Brach said.
The centers will be open until Tuesday, and a new center will open Wednesday in North Kohala.
People who register will have their home or business inspected by a FEMA agent, and those eligible for emergency payments can get the money as quickly as seven to 10 days after registration, Brach said. Not all will be eligible for payments, but could seek low-interest loans instead.