Funds released for Kekaha Ditch siphon replacement

LIHUE — A 107-year-old metal siphon running along the Kekaha Ditch has seen better days.

“Deterioration over the years has resulted in corrosion of the siphon’s inner walls and leakage at the intake structure,” states a release from Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s office.

As a result, the state has set aside $1.4 million to replace the siphon, which is part of the Kekaha Ditch Irrigation System. 

Built by the Kekaha Sugar Company in 1907, the system includes 27 miles of ditches, tunnels, steel siphons, wooden flumes and two hydropower plants, according to state documents. The ditch carries water from an altitude of about 500 feet from the Waimea River to Kekaha.

The money is part of $7.8 million released last week for various capital improvement projects investing in Hawaii’s agricultural industry.

“Safeguarding our water supplies is a high-priority natural resource goal of this administration,” Abercrombie said. “These projects will upgrade the state’s aging agricultural infrastructure to create a more reliable water supply for many of the farmers and ranchers that support Hawaii’s economy.”

Justin Fujioka, a spokesman for Abercrombie, said bidding for the project is expected to begin in June, with the repair slated to start around February of 2015.

“Also, the shutdown date of the system for this project is late summer so the estimated November 2014 completion date has been pushed back to about November 2015,” he wrote in an email.

The property is under the control of the Agribusiness Development Corporation and the ditch is maintained by the Kekaha Agriculture Association. 

From 2010 to May 2013, Kekaha Ditch diverted an average of 31.3 million gallons of water per day from the Waimea River, as previously reported by The Garden Island. 

Phone calls to Landis Ignacio of the Kekaha Agriculture Association were not returned by press time.

Other projects in the CIP funding include: $2.5 million for the Waiahole Water System on Oahu; $1.5 million for the Upcountry Maui Watershed Project; $1.175 million for the Waimanalo Irrigation System on Oahu; $750,000 for the Galbraith Lands Irrigation System on Oahu; $340,000 for improvements to the Waimea Irrigation System on Big Island; and $200,000 for the Molokai Irrigation System.

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