Sunday, May 13, 2001

A contractor hopes to begin dredging the Ala Wai Canal by
summer's end. State officials will hold an informational
public briefing on the project May 22.

Public meeting will
address Ala Wai dredging

By Diana Leone


A contractor is finalizing plans to dredge the Ala Wai Canal, but work is unlikely to begin before late summer.

As the first dredging of the canal since 1978 nears, several state lawmakers are holding an informational briefing May 22 for people to learn more about the project.

The meeting will feature representatives from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which is overseeing the dredging contract, and the Health Department, which must grant a permit for disposal of the dredge materials.

The meeting will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the state Capitol auditorium.

The 2-mile-long canal, which drains a 16.3-acre watershed, hasn't been cleared of silt and debris since 1978. Some portions of the waterway are as shallow as 18 inches. Plans are to return it to a 12-foot average depth.

Sen. Norman Sakamoto (D, Moanalua-Salt Lake) said some of his constituents want to be sure that contaminated silt from the canal isn't moved to their neighborhood.

Sakamoto said he's heard differing accounts of whether the dredged material will be disposed of on the Honolulu Airport reef runway, on Sand Island or at sea.

"We want assurances this is safe," Sakamoto said.

"I've been getting different answers about the toxicity of the dredge material," said Rep. Dennis Arakaki (D, Kamehameha Heights-Kalihi Valley) "Some are saying it's highly toxic, some are saying it's just silt built up over time."

"They're saying it's not a threat to the ocean or the environment or the people. Then why take it that far from Waikiki?" Arakaki asked. "Why dump at Kalihi?"

Andy Monden, chief engineer in Department of Land and Natural Resource's engineering branch, said most of the mud to come out of the canal (167,812 cubic yards) can safely be disposed of at an EPA-approved site three miles at sea.

An additional 18,515 cubic yards has enough pesticide or heavy metal residues that it merits being bound with cement to stabilize it and used as landfill material. The projected site for this material is the outer reef runway of Honolulu Airport.

The department did testing of the Ala Wai silt under Environmental Protection Agency guidance, to determine how to handle it, Monden said. It is not hazardous waste, he said, but does need to be handled appropriately.

American Marine Corp. was designated as low bidder on the contract, with a June 2000 bid of $7.4 million.

"We hope to get it working by the end of the summer," he said.

Gary Gill, deputy health director for environmental health, said at the May 22 meeting he "will address the Health Department's role in assuring that this material that is planned to be kept on land will be safely kept on land that any chemicals or metals in that material will be safely bound and will not run back into the ocean.

"The Health Department role will be to review the contractor's plan and be sure they will do it correctly."

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