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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted at 11:47 a.m., Thursday, April 3, 2003

Ditch to protect against Lalea rockfalls

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Goodfellow Bros. Inc. workers Thomas Rabe, foreground, and Harry Au mark out the location for an erosion-control fence above a Lalea townhome complex today. Workers will also widen and deepen a ditch behind the complex.

Photos by Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Milad Estivan, whose home in a Lalea subdivision sits in the shadow of a hillside, hopes that an enlarged ditch will help protect his property.
Laborers installed erosion netting today as a rockfall mitigation project started behind a row of Hawai'i Kai townhouses where two runaway boulders smashed into parked cars Thanksgiving night.

Construction crews from Goodfellow Bros. Inc. plan to widen and deepen an earthen ditch behind the Lalea townhome complex, but will not start serious digging until early next week, possibly Monday, said project foreman Einar Frimodt.

The enlarged ditch is needed because of the risk of further rockfalls. The Thanksgiving night boulders led to the evacuation of 26 families in early December. They were told it could be a year before they would be able to return to their homes.

The first phase of the project will widen and deepen a drainage ditch that runs between the Kaluanui hillside and Lalea buildings 7110, 7116, 7122 and 7128. The work will increase the ditch's capacity to act as a catch basin for rocks in the immediate vicinity that may become dislodged by natural geologic processes, according to Kamehameha Schools, landowner of the area above the Lalea property on the Kaluanui hillside.

When finished, the new ditch will be 20 feet wide, 3 1/2 feet deep and 1,000 feet long. The ditch wall closest to the homes will be covered with concrete. The $400,000 to $500,000 job should take about three months to complete.

A second phase of the project, which will entail construction of a cable-netting system above the development, has been bid to three firms for consideration. The second phase is expected to begin by the end of April and take about six months to complete.

Kamehameha Schools and the developer, Castle & Cooke Hawai'i, are paying for the project.

Geologists have said other rocks could fall from the hillside, but foreman Frimodt isn't overly concerned. It's part of the job.

"There is a man full time who all he does is watch for rocks," Frimodt said. "We'll also have a barrier built to guard against rocks."

Milad Estivan, whose home sits in the shadow of the hillside, said he hopes the ditch will be enough.

"I'm sure they did enough homework to find out that this is suitable for the situation," he said today. "I guess it's a matter of trust at this point."

Reach Mike Gordon at mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8012.