Water Ways

By Ray Pendleton

Ala Wai getting long-
overdue dredging

WOW! The Ala Wai Canal is really going to be dredged.

I know, I've written about dredging proposals for the past decade and then nothing happened.

But believe me, this time there is no question. This year it will happen.

At a meeting for boaters and paddlers at the Waikiki Yacht Club last week, Neil Williams, the dredging project manager for American Marine Corporation, provided many of the details of this huge operation that will take about a year to complete.

To begin with, there will be a meeting to provide information to the general public by the first or second week of July, Williams said.

The dredging should begin soon after that and will go from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The company's goal will be to increase the canal's water quality, depth (10 to 12 feet) and storm water capacity, while decreasing its current and removing obstructions to navigation.

As one might expect of a project that will remove some 24 years of accumulated silt and debris from the bottom of a two-mile-long canal, people presently using the waterway are sure to have some disruption of their activities.

Those effected by the operation will not only be paddlers, but the sailing schools of the harbor's yacht clubs and the sailors who race from the harbor every Friday evening.

To begin with, the dredge and the barges -- called dump-scows -- will be the largest vessels seen on the canal in decades. Each will be some 70 to 80 feet long and about 25 feet wide.

Empty scows will be moored at temporary pilings in the turning basin along Magic Island where they will be exchanged at about three-hour intervals with silt-filled scows that will be taken to sea and dumped at an approved site.

The dredging will be conducted in four phases, Williams said. The first will be from the Ala Moana Boulevard bridge to the McCully Street bridge, and he expects it to take around three weeks.

By September, Williams believes, phase two -- from McCully to the Ala Wai Golf Course -- will commence, but because the canal is wider and more completely silted in this area, it will naturally take much longer than phase one.

Phases three and four will remove silt from the lower portion of the Manoa/Palolo stream tributary and an area adjacent to the Kapahulu library.

As the dredge and the scows move up the canal, silt-containment curtains will be set up around the immediate area being dredged, Williams said.

This will be done to prevent sediment from being dispersed throughout the canal, but it may also occasionally prevent paddlers from launching their canoes from their usual locations.

So, between the actual dredging operation and the movement of scows up and down the canal and out to sea, all of the Ala Wai's many users will be well advised to look for innovative ways to coexist with this long-overdue project.

It will be for a good cause though, because once the dredging is complete, the canal will again become an ideal flat water venue for everyone, as well as an efficient waterway for watershed runoff.

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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