3 Hawaii levees make national danger list
The problems pose no peril and should be fixed by April, officials say
Three flood-control levees, one on Oahu and two on Kauai, have not been maintained properly and are included on a national list of levees in danger of failing, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said yesterday.
The levees along the Waimea and Hanapepe rivers on Kauai have been on the "inactive" list since 2002, and the levee along the Moanalua Stream on Oahu has been on the list since 2003.
Lincoln Gayagas, Emergency Operation Planner with the Honolulu district of the Army Corps, said the three had "not met maintenance criteria" and that inspectors found problems with vegetation, too much debris and sediment in the levees, and with broken concrete and clogged drains.
However, they are in no danger of failing and pose "no imminent danger to people at this time," Army Corps Honolulu District spokesman Joseph Bonfiglio said.
And the levees could be off the danger list within the next month or two, officials said.
The national list containing 122 levees from 27 states and the District of Columbia includes flood-control systems that pose a more immediate threat to safety, Bonfiglio said.
But the three in Hawaii have been through the flooding rains of the past few years and worked the way they were designed, even if they did not perform at 100 percent capability, said Joel Hendrix, chief emergency officer for the corps' Honolulu district.
Concrete-lined basins stretching for more than a mile along the waterways, the levees are designed to keep flash-flood waters from damaging private property. According to Bonfiglio, the Hanapepe River levee prevented more than $3 million in flood damage along its banks last year despite problems with maintenance.
At Moanalua Stream, built and maintained by the City and County of Honolulu, vegetation pushed through the concrete, causing it to buckle or collapse in some areas.
But the city has signed contracts to fix the problems, Gayagas said, and the Army Corps "expect to get a phone call within a month" to come reinspect the levee.
Kauai County spokeswoman Mary Daubert said the Kauai Department of Public Works already had completed "a substantial amount" of work on its two problem levees, and hoped inspectors would be out to reinspect next month.
The Hanapepe and Waimea levees, which were built by the Army Corps but are maintained by the county, had problems with vegetation along the embankments, and floodgates that needed to be fixed. Private-property owners on one side of the banks had started encroaching on them, using the area to grow plants, trees and even watermelon, Gayagas said.
The national list of problem levees was made public in response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by news organizations, including the Associated Press. It details levees considered "inactive" on the Army's Rehabilitation and Inspection Program.
If a levee breaks that has been properly maintained, the Army Corps is responsible for any costs to fix and repair flooded areas.
It is possible that people living downstream from levees on the "inactive list" could pay more for flood insurance, said Butch Kinerney, of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's national flood insurance program. Also, FEMA might take away the credit that communities receive on their flood insurance rate for having a levee.
California, with 37 suspect levees, and Washington state, with 19, led the list.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.