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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 30, 2006

Storm drain work sought

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

Judy Nakamura of 'Aina Haina shows one of two walls in her backyard that was damaged by floodwaters last month during weeks of heavy rain. Liwai Street residents have to deal with ankle-deep water after heavy rains because there's only one storm drain.

JOAQUIN SIOPACK | The Honolulu Advertiser

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'Aina Haina Rocks the size of softballs littered Judy Nakamura's Liwai Street yard, the aftereffects of the torrents that rushed through her yard twice last month during the weeks of heavy rain.

Even with a makeshift water diverter stretched across her driveway, Nakamura's yard was etched by gullies.

This time the retaining wall dividing her neighbor's yard and hers lay on its side. They're common sights, Nakamura said, happening every time it rains hard. She should know. She's lived in the home for 32 years.

Every time there's an intense rain like the one that hit at the end of March, Liwai Street has water ankle deep because the one storm drain there can't accommodate the flow. The situation is made worse by runoff from Hao Street that pours down a drainage ditch. The excess water comes off Hao and onto Liwai Street.

"The drains just can't do enough to help," said Nakamura. "I get the most of it. All the dirt eroded on the side of my lanai."

For years Nakamura and others have asked the city for help. They're asking again. They went to the Kuli'ou'ou/Kalani Iki Neighborhood Board recently with letters urging the city to help by widening the storm drain or by building another one in the roadway on Hao Street.

Another time residents asked for help was in 2002 during the city's vision process.

A 1981 study said floodwater from heavy rains affected homes not only on the low side of Liwai Street, but also on Waihou Street, which is directly behind. The city concluded then that a separate relief system on Liwai Street would solve the problem. The estimated cost was $449,000, but the project wasn't done because of lack of funding.

The vision process study in 2002, however, looked at the problem differently and decided that the floodwaters originated on private property along the hillside and the city bore no responsibility. Initially the city said in vision team reports that it would only cost $178,000 to purchase land upslope of Hao Street, between Liwai and Aipuni streets, and to design and build a drainage ditch to help divert the flow off of Hao Street and ultimately Liwai Street.

Bill Brennan, Mayor Mufi Hannemann's spokesman, said that city attorneys are reviewing the issue now and because of that no comments could be made.

Had the relief drain been installed years ago, it would have addressed the storm water flooding concerns on Liwai Street from the March rains, said Bob Harman, a Liwai Street resident.

Tired of waiting for a solution, resident Kini Miller took measures into his own hands. Miller cemented into the sidewalk two small I-beams that he uses to hold up a plank of wood that keeps storm water from rushing into his yard. His new neighbor, Mike Von Wiegandt, has a similar structure, but his is on wheels and rolls across the driveway. With the two barriers, the water has nowhere to go but through Nakamura's yard on its way toward the Wailupe Stream and out to sea.

After the two big March rains, residents called the city. Workers checked the storm drains and declared them free of debris, Nakamura said. Yet, after that last big rain she had storm water pooling up to the bottom of the front door to her home, which is on posts and above ground.

Her neighbor, Von Wiegandt, sustained damage to parts of his home, despite the barrier, and had to remove soaked carpeting and pump out mud from his carport.

"On that Friday we had a river rushing through here for two hours," Von Wiegandt said. "Every time it comes through my house and Judy's house."

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.