Building owner: Clogged culvert contributed to flooding

  • Contributed photo

    The parking lot at Chang’s Building in Old Koloa Town was under water the day of the historic flooding in April. Laura Chang Nagao said if it had rained any longer, the water would have reached their building. She said one of the reasons the flooding was so bad on the street is because of a clogged culvert. Even on normal rainy days she said there is overflow from the culvert.

  • Bethany Freudenthal / The Garden Island

    Laura Chang Nagao said she believes clogged culverts near Weliweli Road in Koloa caused some of the flooding in Old Koloa Town. On the day of the flood, her daughter Christyl Nagao spent about three hours trying to clear mud, gunk and debris from the drain.

  • Bethany Freudenthal / The Garden Island

    Despite living in Wailua Houselots, Jade Hirano, who works at Discount Variety located in Chang’s Building in Koloa, said she still went to work the day of the flood. She believes the clogged culvert is one of the reasons flooding in the parking lot was so bad.

  • Bethany Freudenthal / The Garden Island

    Chandra Beechly owns Under the Sea Gallery located in Chang’s Building in Koloa, had to close up shop the day of the flood in April. Since then, she says her business has had difficulty catching up on their losses.

KOLOA — A Koloa business owner is concerned that clogged culverts near Weliweli Road caused some of the flooding in the area, and has been trying to get the County of Kauai to remedy the problem.

The county says it has been working diligently to address flood-related issues from both April’s historic flooding and the recent flooding as a result of Hurricane Lane.

Laura Chang Nagao’s family has owned Chang’s Building off of Weliweli Road in Koloa for about a century. The family used to run a transportation business on the property, but now it’s home to several shops.

When the flooding happened in April, water nearly reached their building and other buildings in the area.

“Everyone had a hard time because it’s a storm,” she said. “This hasn’t been brought up until now because the flooding here, one hour more it would have gone into the buildings and I thank God it didn’t.”

One of the stores in the building closed for the day and an employee at another business in the building was stuck in traffic for a couple of hours, but still came to work, Nagao said.

“So it impacts. If I was a customer, I wouldn’t come out on that day,” she said. “That’s why my daughter called me up. I was going to come down and I had my grandchildren. She said ‘don’t come down, I’m over here, I’ll cover it.’”

The culvert has been blocked before, and they have seen water backed up when it’s regularly raining.

“No one does anything. Finally this happened,” she said. “I feel personally it’s toxic.”

On the day of the recent flood, Laura’s daughter Christyl went right to work caring for the properties she manages as well as taking care of her mother’s building in Koloa.

The water nearly reached Chang’s Building and other businesses near Weliweli Road that day, so she knew she had to do something.

“The water was a lot higher than I’ve ever seen it, so I knew there was a culvert so I took my hoe and shovel. It was probably three feet deep in some areas. I was digging for a while until it got dark,” she said.

Nagao spent two or three hours that day cleaning out the culvert, and once the water started receding, hauled away bags of leaves and other gunk.

“I just kept plugging away at the area where the storm drain was. I think it helped a little, but not enough.”

Acting County Engineer Lyle Tabata said the county is working with the limited amount of resources to respond to the after-effects of the flooding.

“Priorities are to address immediate health and safety issues,” he said.

The county plans on addressing the culverts near Weliweli Road by the end of September, he said.

The storm in April was the worst Nagao has ever seen.

“The main thing is nobody got hurt. If this is not told, a lot of places on Kauai, they didn’t say anything, ‘in our mind it’s an act of God,’ but to me, a lot of things can be prevented,” she said. “In our days, they cleaned the shoulder of the road before winter, they clean it out until it runs off the road, but they don’t do it now and it’s sad.”


Bethany Freudenthal, crime, courts and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or

  1. Oingo boingo September 14, 2018 7:38 am Reply

    With all the tourist that have been flocking to the islands and bringing all this money supposedly… the county should be booming..
    Sounds Like the hotels,rent a car companies, and vacation rentals are not paying the fair share back into the system.

  2. justmyopinion September 14, 2018 9:39 am Reply

    A county supervisor in the’ field once told me that the county doesn’t bother with cleaning drain culverts and pipes and ditches. They just let it flood when it rains heavy so they get the FEMA money, which they then use to clean the drains and that way get a lot of overtime pay.
    If the mouth of the Hanalei river into Hanalei Bay had been dredged of all the silt that has washed out into the bay over the last hundreds of years, and the hau bush and other brush that encroaches into the river had been cleared, perhaps there would have been a lot less damage cause by the backup of the runoff from “The Wettest Spot on Earth” Our county and State are Reactive, rather than Proactive.

    1. Reverend Malama Robinson September 15, 2018 7:20 am Reply

      County of Kauai job equals great pay and no accountability!

      Always was and always will be… CORRUPTION, TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION

  3. harry oyama September 14, 2018 7:48 pm Reply

    Then if the county has been neglecting their duties which causes flooding and damage to your business or homes, then you should sue them and ask the jury or judge to triple the awards. Then you should file a charge with the FBI for fraud so they can charge those in charge with felony punishment so they can’t draw on their pensions.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.