Water Ways

By Ray Pendleton

Saturday, August 28, 1999

Ala Wai cleanup
group seeks

ANYONE who has read this column since its inception in 1993 has surely noted my reoccurring stories calling for a more aggressive maintenance program for Waikiki's Ala Wai Canal.

There are several reasons for my intense interest in that particular waterway.

First and foremost, the view from my home and office overlooks the canal, as it enters the boat harbor, so its deplorable condition is always in front of me.

Then, too, I can see on a daily basis the many visitors who stop to admire the view of the canal's sparkling waters, only to become quickly distracted by the abundance of refuse floating in it.

I have also participated in many one-day Ala Wai cleanups, and all too often watched as a sudden rainfall erased several hours of work by hundreds of people, as street litter washed into storm drains then is emptied into the canal.

Likewise, I have repeatedly watched helplessly as the state-controlled debris trap on the makai-side of the Ala Moana bridge - filled with tons of garbage - regurgitated its contents into the boat harbor because those responsible hadn't closed or emptied the trap before a high tide or a Kona wind.

I also understand and share the fears of infection by those who use the canal as a flat water venue for canoe and kayak paddling and rowing because I use my own canoe on those same polluted waters.

Because of all these reasons, I have been an active supporter of a community-based group called the Ala Wai Canal Watershed Improvement Project, which has, as its name suggests, the goal of restoring acceptable water quality to the Ala Wai Canal. It is successfully using an organizational framework based on the early Hawaiian ahupuaa in bringing its communities into partnership with business and government.

A major difference between this project and one-shot cleanups is that it is setting itself up for the long term. It is attempting to apply for and spend federal Environmental Protection Agency funds and, in the future, other grants, in a sustainable manner by viewing the end result as the product of many actions taken over many years throughout the contributing watershed.

Since its inception, the AWCWIP has been blessed with scores of people volunteering countless hours of their time to make its dream a reality. But now, principally due to the size and scope of the project, its community board has determined a need for a professional administrator/coordinator.

Now, instead of making my usual plea for Ala Wai cleanup volunteers, for the first time in over six years, I can advise you that a paid position to improve the Ala Wai is in the offing.

The Center for a Sustainable Future - the AWCWIP's fiscal agent - has recently announced it is accepting applications for an independent contractor's position.

The contractor's responsibilities will include responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the project, creating and maintaining effective communication and coordination on all project activities, and serve as the primary liaison between the fiscal agent and the AWCWIP.

It should come as no surprise that among the required skills listed are excellent communication skills, the ability to work with diverse groups of people, experience with facilitation of large groups, and cultural sensitivity.

If you are, or know someone who is that qualified person, contact Judy Nakamura at the Center for a Sustainable Future by e-mail at

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu.
His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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