Tuesday, April 20, 1999

Feds honor effort to
clean Ala Wai Canal

The community-based project was
started in 1997 with an EPA grant

By Gregg K. Kakesako


A community-based project to cleanse one of the state's most polluted bodies of water -- the Ala Wai Canal -- will be recognized Thursday during a San Francisco Earth Day ceremony.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will honor the Ala Wai Canal Watershed Improvement Project, also known as Malama Kakou, as "a showcase to the world of what people and their governments can accomplish to right environmental wrongs," said Felicia Marcus, western regional administrator of the EPA.

Begun in April 1997 under a $650,000 EPA grant, the community-based environmental cleanup project is designed to develop a long-term strategy to improve the water quality of the 2-mile Waikiki canal and the various streams that feed into it.

The uniqueness of the project, according to Christina Kemmer, chair of its advisory committee, is that it developed "a model where decisions were driven by community needs rather than by business or government."

Town meetings were held and a 53-member advisory committee was created. The Ala Wai watershed -- which includes Manoa, Palolo and Makiki -- was divided into seven smaller areas, each of which was given grants of $25,000.

Clyde Morita, outreach coordinator for the Ala Wai Canal Watershed Project, said 15 projects were chosen and will continue through the end of 2000.

Those include restoring the stream next to Roosevelt High School, rebuilding the taro terraces at Anuenue School in Palolo, and cleaning up, redesigning, and landscaping areas on Tantalus which people have used to dump household and commercial trash.

Morita said the next phase will involve an additional $500,000 EPA grant to develop a group that will work with the nonprofit Center for a Sustainable Future, which seeks to preserve watershed areas in the state.

The purpose here is to take the community-based organization another step by developing a group that will work "to sustain programs and projects," Kemmer said.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson said the state already has committed $13.6 million to clean and dredge the canal, expected to begin later this year.

The Ala Wai Canal has long suffered from pollution: lead, copper, pesticides, sediment, and high levels of fecal coliform bacteria.

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