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Thursday, April 6, 2000

State of Hawaii

State to delay
plans for Kailua

Waimanalo residents had
feared flooding if it were
converted to a stream

By Lori Tighe
and Harold Morse


The state will delay plans to convert the Kailua Reservoir into a stream until more studies can be done -- flooding Waimanalo community residents with relief.

"Wow," was the stunned one-word reaction from Kimberly Kalama, the resident most affected by the centuries-old reservoir that runs alongside her back yard.

"It's about time. It takes something like this to make the state look at the whole picture," Kalama said.

Waimanalo residents opposed the state's plan because they feared it could flood hundreds of surrounding residents' properties.

The uncontrolled storm runoff would also dump directly into Waimanalo Bay and pollute the beach, residents said.

The state also agreed to do a Waimanalo Valley drainage master plan, which will examine the best solutions for rainwater to flow out to the sea.

After reviewing public comments on the project's draft environmental assessment, consultant R.M. Towill recommended further studies. The state departments of Agriculture and Land and Natural Resources agreed.

"We appreciate the questions and concerns received from various sectors of the community during the public comment period," said James Nakatani, chairman of the state Board of Agriculture. "The state will be reviewing the comments and planning further studies in the area."

The state said it began the project to convert the abandoned reservoir into a stream in response to flooding concerns from Waimanalo residents in 1996.

The Kalamas were upset at the state for failing to maintain the abandoned reservoir during storms. The state, which owns the reservoir, neglected to open the dam flumes and allow flooding rainwater to flow in a controlled manner out to sea, according to the Kalamas. Storm water built up and poured over the dam wall, flooding the Kalamas' 3-acre property.

It all could have been avoided, they say, if only the state maintained and repaired the reservoir.

"I am shocked," Kalama said, and "definitely" happy. She was still awaiting word from the governor's office after delivering a 1,000-signature petition opposing the project.

"There's big community concern here," she said.

EnviroWatch president Carroll Cox agreed the state's decision was "good news."

"The state did pay attention to the public input. It works," he said.

Public pressure must now continue for the state to do the right thing, Cox said.

"We want to make sure they are true to their words. We've seen that happen in this state: Once the media pressure is off, it's back to business as usual."

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