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Wilson worries


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POSTED: Saturday, September 05, 2009

Question: What's up with Lake Wilson in Wahiawa? If you look off the north bridge, there is only a mud flat with a trickle of water. A friend told me the water level is so low they can't even use the boat launch ramp at the Freshwater Fishing Park anymore. Is the state draining the lake?

Answer: The water level of Lake Wilson intentionally has been lowered, but the state Department of Land and Natural Resources insists the lower level has not “;impacted”; boaters and fishermen.

;

When we checked the lake yesterday, there was nothing but overgrown grass and cracked mud next to the boat ramp, an area usually filled with water.

State Sen. Robert Bunda, who represents Wahiawa and the North Shore, said he drives by the lake every day, and “;I have never seen it this low.”;

“;The fish better pray for rain—with the level so low, the potential for suffocating the fish is great,”; he said.

His office manager, Laura Figueira, said the water was lowered “;in response to community concerns because of the potential for flooding.”; Although the lake is privately owned by Dole Foods and Sustainable Hawaii, Inc., it is managed by DLNR as a public recreational fishing area. It initially was built as an irrigation reservoir for sugar cane.

DLNR and the owners have agreed to keep the water at a “;lower level”; for dam safety—to relieve “;undue pressure”; on the embankments—and also to allow for storm-water flows, said DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward.

But also, she said, the owners want the lake at a lower level because they no longer need it so much for irrigation, now that sugar cane has been replaced by less water-consumptive crops.

Using the spillway elevation of 80 feet as a reference guide, the decision was made to lower the water level to 65 feet, as measured by gauges near the dam.

For a “;brief period”; in July, Ward said, it was lowered to around 60 feet to allow inspection of inoperable gates in an outlet tower.

At last check on Thursday, she said the level was holding at 65 feet. Water levels are expected to rise during the rainy season.

From a dam safety standpoint, there are no flooding concerns associated with the drain system, Ward said. However, repairing or replacing the outlet gates is necessary in case an emergency requires lowering the reservoir's water level, she said.

She also said correcting any deficiencies is solely the responsibility of the owners.

An official for Dole confirmed DLNR's assessment of the situation and said it's not yet known when repairs will be made.

It's also uncertain whether the water levels will be heightened once repairs are made.

Jarud Udelhofen, 30, who's stationed at nearby Schofield Barracks and was at the lake fishing yesterday, said the water level was several feet higher, almost to the walkway leading to the ramp, just a few weeks ago.

His fishing partner, Wahiawa resident Keith Lewis, 27, said the water level has been fluctuating over the past month. In the past two weeks, though, “;it's really been bad,”; he said.

The caretaker at Lake Wilson has noted that boaters using the launch ramp who do not have extensions might have difficulty launching, Ward acknowledged.

However, she said DLNR's Aquatic Resources Division and state Rep. Marcus Oshiro's office reported generally that “;boaters were pleased”; when the water level was as low as 61 feet, after sediment and debris had been cleared from the bottom of the ramp.

Aquatic Resources “;has been constantly monitoring the lake to make sure there have been no detrimental impacts to fish populations,”; Ward said.

She also said that after the bottom of the boat launch ramp was cleared of debris, the ramp was usable even at the lower water levels.

Lewis believes otherwise: “;People pay a ramp fee, but now they can't launch their boat.”;

He also doesn't believe the lower levels have anything to do with dam safety.

“;I think the state doesn't want to have anything to do with freshwater fishing anymore,”; he said. “;Something fishy is going on.”;

Ward said if anyone has a problem with the boat ramp, contact DLNR with specifics.

Question: On 16th and Kilauea avenues in Kaimuki, a contractor has put up what looks like homemade tow-away signs. The black-and-white signs say, “;No Parking 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 6 to Sept. 8, 2009 Construction Area.”; Are they legal?

Answer: Yes.

An officer with the Honolulu Police Department did go to the site, checked the signs and determined they were legal, according to spokeswoman Michelle Yu.

The contractor had obtained a permit from the city.

HPD was told that there is nothing specifying what the “;no parking”; signs posted by the contractor should look like. So, although most of the signs are the more familiar red-and-white signs posted when parking is restricted because of construction work, they are not required.