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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Flooding still feared in Makiki and Pawa'a

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer


Residents and businesses that want to file a claim for flood damage may call:

State Department of Accounting and General Services, 586-0547

City Office of the Corporation Counsel, 523-4639

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The rains stopped three weeks ago, but the cleanup and concerns of many Makiki residents continue as the conditions they blame for much of the flooding in their community still exist.

About 100 Makiki, Pawa'a and McCully residents attended a meeting last night at Washington Middle School to hear from elected and other government officials on what is being done in the aftermath of the March and April floods. As their primary concern, residents pointed to Makiki Stream, which overflowed several times.

The residents asked the officials when the stream would be dredged and what else is being done to prevent it from overflowing and flooding homes and businesses. When the meeting was over, many people said they were not satisfied with what they heard.

City and state officials told the crowd that there is no quick fix to the problem and that "multiple jurisdictions," including private property owners, are responsible for maintaining the stream. No one could tell the group when or if the stream will be cleared.

Kaipo Perez Jr. said the only person who answered the question was Derek Chow of the Army Corps of Engineers. But Chow said a Corps of Engineers study won't be completed until 2008 or 2009 and, after that, funding would need to be secured for the improvements.

Perez, who said his Ke'eaumoku Street home was flooded on March 24 and again a week later, said the community can't wait until then and needs answers now.

"Is it state or is it city? Just clean the doggone thing. But nobody wants to step up to the plate," Perez said. "The next time, somebody will die and I'd like to see what the state and city are going to say if someone dies."

A frustrated Robert Kuwata stood up and told the panel, "We never accomplish nothing tonight." Kuwata lives on Nanea Street and said that his house was flooded four times and that two of his cars were totaled.

Kuwata said he was at the meeting because he hoped to get some help. But he said he believed that the government officials were "just passing the buck."

Bob Masuda, deputy director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said the Makiki Stream and canal are antiquated and can no longer handle the volume of water during heavy rain. He said the state has no "magic wand" to solve the problem.

Last night's meeting was organized by state Sens. Carol Fukunaga, D-11th (Makiki, Pawa'a), and Brian Taniguchi, D-10th (Manoa, McCully); state Reps. Kirk Caldwell, D-24th (Manoa, Manoa Valley, University), Scott Nishimoto, D-21st (Kapahulu, Diamond Head), and Scott Saiki, D-22nd (McCully, Pawa'a); and City Council member Ann Kobayashi. It was attended by representatives of the state and O'ahu civil defense, as well as Cabinet members of Gov. Linda Lingle's and Mayor Mufi Hannemann's administrations.

Fukunaga promised the crowd that their concerns will be addressed and answers will be given to the residents.

Caldwell said the solution appears to lie with the Corps of Engineers and he realizes the residents are frustrated because that plan is years away.

"You're not going to see an overall solution done quickly," Caldwell said. "You'll see mitigating things being done and some maintenance and cleanup. But the big stuff you're talking about won't happen until that study is completed.

Makiki resident Lillian Novak thanked the officials for holding the meeting, but told them to act now before another disaster hits.

"This Makiki Stream we've talked about it for two years at our neighborhood board meeting and nothing was done," Novak said. "If you've seen how bad it is from Philip Street down to Century Center, nobody took care of that for years. These residents are suffering. We cannot wait until 2007 or 2008."

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.