Wednesday, February 21, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Waimanalo reservoir overflow feared

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward Bureau

WAIMANALO — David and Kimberly Kalama of Waimanalo live in fear that an abandoned reservoir could overflow during a heavy rain and burst, causing flood damage to their property and to others’ downstream.

Kim Kalama of Waimanalo wants the state to renovate this cracked flume and restore the abandoned reservoir behind her home.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

While the reservoir poses no immediate threat to them or their 20 neighbors, that could change in a storm, said Kimberly Kalama. When it rains, creating as many as 37 waterfalls above their home, the runoff flows from the Ko
olau Range and funnels toward the 40-foot-deep reservoir adjacent to their home, she said.

The couple fear that a flash flood could clog the opening of the reservoir with debris and force water to breach the walls or even break through the earthen berm.

"We’ve just been very fortunate that there’s hardly any rain for six years since it’s been abandoned," Kalama said. "But we’re kind of getting worried because it’s starting to rain a lot again."

But now a bill wending its way through the Legislature could help resolve the problem and even restore the reservoir to working condition.

The Kailua Reservoir was once part of the Waimanalo Irrigation System under the state Department of Agriculture. The reservoir acted as a silt basin, catching debris and preventing trash from flowing downstream and eventually into the bay.

The three-acre pond held about 8 million gallons before it was abandoned about six years ago in favor of a 60 million-gallon reservoir to increase service capacity. The crater is now dry and overgrown with vegetation except for a stream that runs through it and then out a three-foot-wide opening in the reservoir’s walls.

The Kalamas would like the reservoir restored so that it can once again act as a filter for water flowing to the ocean. House Bill 1323 would return the reservoir to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the state agency that manages state land, and provide up to $1 million for repairs, said Rep. Joe Gomes, R-51st (Lanikai, Waimanalo), who introduced the bill.

Gomes said the reservoir could be made operable if a valve that releases water during heavy flows is repaired.

Last year, in an attempt to mitigate flooding problems, the Agriculture Department developed proposals to address the flooding, said Paul Matsuo, administrator for the department’s Agriculture Resource Management Division. Once the flooding issue was addressed, the land would have been turned over to the state to manage.

But the community objected to the proposals, saying they would adversely affect the downstream environment and the ocean, and the DLNR didn’t want the land with a liability issue hanging over it, Matsuo said. The proposals included concrete channels that increase the flow of a stream, but were necessary to prevent erosion, he said.

"Because of their objection, we’re now required to do a full-blown environmental impact statement," Matsuo said. "There isn’t any funding to do that kind of study."

Gomes said he had to take steps to protect the public.

"To me it was an issue of government at its worst because nobody was stepping forward to be accountable to fix this thing," Gomes said. "Nothing was being done, a danger loomed and I see the Legislature as a court of last resort."

Waimanalo Neighborhood Board member Joe Ryan said the reservoir must be maintained.

"It can’t be allowed to sit there and threaten people," Ryan said.

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