Search may end Wednesday

The search may end this week for the four remaining missing people who were swept away when the Kaloko Dam gave way last Tuesday.

Mayor Bryan Baptiste said yesterday that the search could be called off at the end of the day Wednesday. He also said that he will be talking to the families of the missing people to explain that the search may be winding down.

He pointed out that, as far as he knows, there were no homeless people accounted for or living on the beach in the vicinity of where Wailapa Stream meets the ocean.

He said that the closest homeless people were in the Papa’a area, miles away from the flooding.

The mayor said that about 40 people are searching an approximate one-and-a-half mile stretch of the stream that is now being called “Ground Zero.”

The mayor made his comments Monday at a press conference about the search and rescue efforts that have been going on since the Kaloko Dam broke last Tuesday.

County fire chief Bob Westerman pointed out that the search will be broadened to include the Kilauea River, and searches will be done along the debris line in the ocean.

The state Attorney General’s investigation into how the Kaloko Dam broke came up at the press conference. The mayor said he does not want to comment on the investigation or speculate on what happened.

“We will wait to see what the investigation shows, whether it was lack of inspection, or if it was just an act of nature. We don’t know that, and we won’t know that for a while,” said Baptiste.

Bob Masuda, deputy director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said that he is coordinating the department’s work in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Geological Survey, and other agencies, relating to dam inspections and engineering.

He said that four dam inspection teams are looking at the 53 dams on the island.

Masuda pointed out that a seven-page worksheet was developed to include information about the physical and visual inspection of the dams. He said the information about the dams should be completed by Friday.

The report hopefully will be used by all operators and owners to upkeep their dams, said Masuda.

He noted that quite a number of dams on the island are in good condition because they have been maintained. He pointed out that dams owned by large companies are generally maintained well. All on the island have been cooperative with the efforts to inspect dams.

“They have been in constant touch with us and Civil Defense. They made their dams accessible to the inspection teams,” said Masuda.

He pointed out that dam owners, whether private or public, are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of their dams.

He said that about 90 percent of the water in the Kaloko Reservoir has been drained, or about 420 million gallons. He pointed out that a 50-meter Olympic-sized pool holds about 1 million gallons.

According to the DLNR, 133 dams are in the department’s inventory. Of that number, Kaua’i has 53. Of the 53, 13 are state-owned, and 40 are privately owned.

Last Thursday, the DLNR authorized the state Attorney General’s office and its agents, employees, consultants and investigators to go on to private property to investigate and inspect dams and reservoirs on Kaua’i.

According to the DLNR, four engineers are currently on the island to inspect reservoirs and dams. One engineer is working with the county Public Works engineers on Kaloko.

Another engineer is focusing inspections on Puu Ka Ele, Wailua, Upper Kapahi, Okinawa, Tanaka and Twin reservoirs.

Another engineer will be checking reservoirs on the south side of the island, including Elua and Waita dams, and another engineer is stationed in the county’s Civil Defense Division.

Masuda is the DLNR engineer stationed within the county’s Civil Defense Division.

According to the DLNR, the department’s forestry staff is monitoring the state-owned Upper Kapahi Reservoir. That reservoir holds about 96 million gallons of water and is located above Kapa’a town.

The DLNR’s forestry staff is also keeping an eye on the state-owned Wailua Reservoir, which holds about 293 million gallons of water. The reservoir is located above Wailua Homesteads.

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