Dredging should be celebrated
I am a little surprised there's been no public announcement of an Ala Wai Canal celebration by now.
Given how many people and years it took to get the state to dredge the canal, you would think someone would be organizing a party for this coming Friday to celebrate the day, six years ago, the dredging began.
My interest in the canal began in 1993 when I offered Water Ways readers a bit of canal history and then compared its past condition to the state it was in at the time.
A photo in a book, Hawaiian Yesterdays by the late Ray Jerome Baker, had brought me to an epiphany: There was a time when the Ala Wai was more than a shallow, polluted urban storm drain.
The photo, taken in 1948, showed a line of small boats moored side-by-side stretching from the Ala Moana to the Kalakaua bridge. Iron rings secured in the Waikiki side of the canal's wall are all that remain of those moorings today.
Subsequent interviews with folks who remembered those days, and recalled actually swimming and fishing in the canal, only served to reinforce ideas for its redemption.
There were various bills advanced in the Legislature back then to fund an Ala Wai dredging project, however they were not enacted for years due in part to the costs involved.
Nonetheless, there were a large number of environmentally concerned citizens who came together under the leadership of state senators Les Ihara and Carol Fukunaga, who volunteered to work on a Community Advisory Committee for the Health Department's Ala Wai Canal Watershed Improvement Project.
This committee addressed not only the need for the canal's dredging, but how best to decrease or eliminate the erosion and pollution pouring into it from the surrounding watershed.
After holding a well-attended gathering at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in 1998, and with funding provided by a federal grant sponsored by U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, there can be little doubt this group was the catalyst for the state's eventual dredging of the Ala Wai four years later.
The advisory committee had numerous plans for improvements to the Ala Wai and its tributaries, and several projects were accomplished in the Manoa and Palolo valleys. But very little was done along the Ala Wai itself once the banks adjacent to the new Convention Center were developed.
Still, the canal was finally dredged and its waters were again deep enough for paddlers and other boaters to navigate without fear of running aground or hitting a semi-submerged shopping cart.
Perhaps one reason for not holding an anniversary celebration for the dredging could be that a University of Hawaii study once determined the silt buildup in the Ala Wai averages about 3 feet every nine years. Its recommendation was that it should be dredged every decade for proper maintenance, meaning the next dredging is only five years away.
Do you think the state might include the harbor as well next time so boaters will really have something to celebrate?