Inspections should be complete by Friday

Inspections of reservoirs and dams continued yesterday on Kaua‘i by teams consisting of members with the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Half the dams on the island — some 27 dams — received a thorough going-over Monday by the inspection teams consisting of engineers from both agencies. Inspections of the remaining 27 continued yesterday, but are expected to take a few days as they are the mountain reservoirs and are more difficult to reach.

Plans to open two disaster assistance and recovery centers by Friday were announced as well, for Kilauea and Kalaheo.

“Of the 27 dams and reservoirs inspected yesterday, all the spillways are clear and working,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, state adjutant general, during a Honolulu press conference Tuesday, covered here by a teleconference call.

The four inspection teams fanned out across the island and carried with them seven-page checklists establishing criteria to determine the condition of the dams. “I had the spillway and the condition of the spillway prioritized to the top of that list,” said Lee.

Other criteria included inspecting structural integrity, operation of drainage systems as well as checking levels.

Though Kaua‘i got a brief respite from rains on Monday and the better part of yesterday, another front was approaching. “We are looking at a couple more days of wetness that will include being under a flood watch, not a flood warning,” Lee said.

With the incoming rains, Lee had owners clear their spillways if they were choked with debris or vegetation on Monday. “Kaua‘i will get rained on first. That is why I am liking the idea of working spillways, because the water will be flowing out rather than going over the top of an earthen dam,” Lee said.

The inspection teams did not offer, or compile, any significant findings, said Lee, and should have the rest of the inspections — 27 more dams — completed in time to have a report to the state of Hawai‘i “by close of business Friday.”

“But all those reservoirs and dams (inspected Monday) are safe,” Lee said. “They won’t break.”

All dams on the island — 54 total — passed an initial visual inspection last week after the Ka Loko Reservoir failure occurred. This second round of inspections are more thorough to gather data for longer term solutions to dam safety.

Lee also informed those at yesterday’s press conference that, after discussions with engineers, Kaloko Reservoir has been declared stable. Engineers also consider Morita Reservoir stable after making a cut in its earthen dam and lowering the level five to six feet.

“An earthen dam is not designed to have water go over the top,” Lee said.

That was why work initially stopped following the Kaloko failure, because of the large amount of water that had passed over the Morita Dam. Now that the level has been significantly lowered, the threat of another flash flood has been significantly reduced.

The state Attorney General’s office investigation is continuing into the cause of the failure of the Kaloko Dam. There has been some confusion over ownership and responsibility for upkeep of the dam.

Last week the USGS seemed to place responsibility for the dam upkeep onto the DLNR in some released documents. Peter Young, head of the DLNR, said yesterday, “We believe that it (Kaloko Dam) is privately owned.”

Young does not feel at this time that the DLNR was responsible for the maintenance of the dam.

“The Attorney General’s office is looking at, and researching, the ownership of the Kaloko Dam,” Young said. “We are yielding the investigation to the Attorney General’s office.”

When asked by reporters about a spillway on Kaloko, Lee responded: “All I can say is the engineers told me they could not find the spillway, possibly it did not exist, and if it did, they do not know whether it was altered at all.”

The United States Geological Survey Pacific Islands Water Science Center over the weekend installed real-time water level monitoring devices at four Kaua‘i reservoirs. The four reservoirs being monitored by the USGS are: Kaloko, Puu Ka Ele near Kilauea, Waita near Koloa, and Kapaia near Lihu‘e.

Kaloko and Puu Ka Ele measurements can be checked online, while Waita and Kapaia will come online in the next few days. To view the real-time monitoring go to Web site: hi.water.usgs.gov

Officials could not say why the specific four reservoirs were chosen.

Lee said there is pumping occurring at Puu Ka Ele. “It is high, but not being questioned (as to its safety) and the spillway is working,” he said.

According to Lee, Kaua‘i Civil Defense released a preliminary assessment of damages after the recent floods that estimated $8 million worth of damages to public buildings. “We are still planning to open a disaster recovery center in Kilauea Town on Friday,” Lee said.

According to Kaua‘i County spokeswoman Mary Daubert, a second disaster assistance and recovery center will be opened in Kalaheo as well.

Sandra Kunimoto, chairperson of the state board of agriculture, said it will be difficult to assess the damages for farmers. “It’s hard to say because some of the damage that happened is long term,” Kunimoto said. “Taro growers for instance won’t know the damage to the taro root until they start to harvest. With papaya, the flooding right now is damaging the roots, but that kind of damage will not show up until later.”

Kunimoto said she does not have any dollar figures yet to illustrate the effect of the flooding on farmers.

Rod Haraga with the state Department of Transportation said they were able to hire a contractor and consultant for the Kuhio Highway repair right away because of Gov. Linda Lingle’s emergency proclamation. Transportation officials have a plan to fix the highway, but first must clear some initial hurdles. The department needs to get permits to drain the sump makai of Kuhio Highway and attain permission from four private property owners to access their property to make repairs. “We are moving on all fronts and we will keep the highway open,” Haraga said.

Other damage on the island as a result of the storms included: 100 feet of the ferry dock at the Fern Grotto on the Wailua River was destroyed. State Parks employees rebuilt a large portion of the dock over the weekend. The Kalaulau Trail to the Na Pali Coast remains closed. Polihale State Park is closed. Both roads to Koke‘e have reopened. One of the flumes that is part of the Alexander Dam system near Kalaheo has been blocked by a landslide. Officials state that the integrity of the system is not threatened at this time.

The DLNR is working with the Kauai Marriott in Kalapaki to make emergency flood repairs on a washed-out area near the hotel and to restore sand at Kalapaki Beach.

Yesterday, according to Young with the DLNR, the state Legislature was to hear an emergency bill to appropriate $14 million to determine hazard levels at dams and the impact on the downstream areas. “The money would be used to evaluate each of the dams and their spillways and their physical condition,” Young said. “We want to learn things like. ‘What is the use of the water in the reservoir?’ ‘What is its intended use?’ Is it irrigation, or recreation … or is it not being used.”

Young said if the money becomes available, it will help provide an extensive data base of information on all dams in the state.

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