A couple watersheds toward Hanalei from the Wailapa watershed where the Kaloko Dam failure occurred Tuesday sits the Kalihiwai Reservoir.
Reports of high water levels on the Kalihiwai made it up the chain of command to Rep. Mina Morita, District 14, late last week after television images seemed to show high levels on the reservoir.
“The genesis (of those concerns) was some lot owners who saw the images and got their complaints high up the chain of command,” said Kilauea Agronomics President Wayne Katayama. “The reality is the situation is well under control. There have been confirmations since then (by state civil defense) that everything is fine.”
Katayama manages the Kalihiwai Reservoir that is now owned by the Kalihiwai Homeowner’s Association.
Kalihiwai is one of 53 dams on Kaua’i.
The reservoir is vital to the Guava Kai Plantation in that it irrigates the guava groves that form the basis of the company.
“We have a spillway that regulates the level of the reservoir and it spilled over about 6 inches today (Sunday),” Katayama said. “But that (spillover) occurs on a regular basis.”
And though Guava Kai does not own the reservoir, they have an agreement with the homeowner’s association to manage it.
“Managing a reservoir is basically the anticipation of incoming flows and outgoing usage,” Katayama said. “You can’t react to reservoir water, you have to control the incoming and the outgoing (flows to maintain levels).”
Katayama said he doubts there was management of the inflows and outflows on the Kaloko Reservoir before Tuesday’s catastrophe.
“Obviously there was no way of getting rid of the water or managing it once it filled the reservoir,” Katayama said.
One of the reasons the Kalihiwai was able to survive the six-week soaking the island has been enduring was because of Guava Kai’s active management of the reservoir.
“We had the reservoir inflows shut down three weeks ago,” Katayama said. “The only leakage into the reservoir was surface flow.”
A controlled release of water began early last week to further control the level of the reservoir. “We have the discharge valve open three-quarters of the way right now,” he said.
The discharge valve is another way of releasing water separate from the spillway.
At the Saturday meeting held in Kilauea to discuss short-term and long-term solutions to the Kaloko and Morita reservoirs situation, it was decided to lower the levels of those reservoirs to make them safe for the short term.
“The long-term solution will, in part, be active management,” Katayama said.
Tom Hitch is the owner of the Kilauea Irrigation Company and owns the irrigation pipe that is fed water by the Kaloko Reservoir.
Hitch took over the responsibility of supplying water to thousands of acres of farmland in December after the company that owned it before, C. Brewer, ceased to exist.
“I only own the pipeline that pulls water out of the reservoir to serve the farmers,” Hitch said. “I don’t own any property or any land easements; it is all owned by (James) Pflueger.”
When asked whether there was management of the Kaloko Reservoir before Tuesday’s tragedy, Hitch said, “Not that I am aware of.”
Hitch’s pipeline serves around 20 farmers.
He did not want to say anything else except, “I am pretty sure I am going to be subpoenaed as well in one of these lawsuits.”
Sandra Wright lives in Kilauea Farms, an area consisting of 25-acre organic farms. She was also at the Saturday meeting in Kilauea.
“What they mentioned at the meeting is the Legislature is appropriating money for a long-term solution to these problems,” Wright said.
She said, at this point, the long-term solutions are not known, but in the future the systems will definitely be under closer scrutiny.
Gov. Linda Lingle’s administration launched a multi-agency fact-finding mission and requested more than $14 million to deal with the dam crisis, including about $8 million to assess and reduce problems with dams throughout the state.
Of the total, $1 million would go to the state attorney general’s investigation of the failed Kaloko dam, which began a day after the disaster and includes subpoenas of owners’ maintenance records.
Another $5 million would pay for surveys and studies of the state’s inventory of private and government owned dams. The Department of Agriculture would receive $50,000 to assess whether each dam is still needed or used for irrigation.
And though determining dam integrity and the health of water control systems both upstream and downstream of existing reservoirs will be one important aspect of ensuring a similar tragedy does not occur again, proper management of reservoirs will play an equally important role.
With the mishmash of owners and managers and differing jurisdictions, managing reservoirs will not be an easy task. “The responsibility of management rests with the property owner,” said Katayama.
And though Guava Kai does not own the property the Kalihiwai rests on, Takayama says they arranged an agreement with the Kalihiwai Homeowners Association to manage it.
There is state oversight as well, he said.
“They look at the care and quality and condition of the reservoir,” Takayama said. “Usually they (the state) will do a visual inspection … but it has been quite awhile for us.”
And though Takayama could not remember the last time the state had inspected the Kalihiwai, in a span of two weeks the reservoir will have received two inspections.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources did a visual inspection right after the Kaloko incident to make sure Kalihiwai was not posing an imminent threat.
Later this week Katayama expects a more thorough DLNR and Army Corps of Engineers inspection of the Kalihiwai.
- Adam Harju, editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 227) and email@example.com