$14.3M for flood cleanup gets early approval
|||Kaloko dam safety fixture disputed|
By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer
By Treena Shapiro
Heavy rain and flooding that took lives and destroyed homes, crops and other property throughout Hawai'i since the beginning of the month could cost the state an estimated $14.3 million, according to an emergency appropriation request from the administration.
The costs include those incurred for recovery and emergency response to the Kaloko Reservoir dam failure on Kaua'i along with costs from flooding on Windward O'ahu and other areas around the state.
The House Finance Committee yesterday approved the emergency appropriation bill, which would help pay for inspections of all dams across the state, pay for the overtime costs of emergency personnel, repair damaged property and prepare for possible litigation.
The bill now will go to the full House for approval, then to the Senate.
Members of the administration yesterday gave the Finance Committee a briefing on its response to last week's Kaloko dam failure, as well as its plans to avert future catastrophe.
Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, the state adjutant general, said the $14.3 million requested by the administration should cover all the state's expenses in dealing with the flooding that has occurred this month. Some may be reimbursed by the federal government, he said.
Beyond just repairing damage that has occurred, the scope of work includes preventing future catastrophes. Since experts already are on Kaua'i inspecting the dams and reservoirs, Lee has asked for inspections of every dam in the state at the same time.
"If we didn't have this situation, (Peter Young, director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources) might take maybe even a year or more to get where we are. I'm looking at the middle of April or the end of April getting this professional assessment done," Lee said.
In addition to the assessment of the structures' physical conditions, the studies will determine what impact the dams and reservoirs have on agriculture, as well as the potential risks to downstream areas.
Lawmakers also asked whether the dams had been inspected as required by law, as well as who would be liable for the costs.
Young said DLNR is collecting records from all dam owners in the state to determine when the dams had been inspected.
Attorney General Mark Bennett said the state might try to recover some of the inspection costs from the dam owners, but in the meantime, the state should proceed with the inspections to make sure they are done.
"I think it would be imprudent to leave it to private landowners," he said.
Reach Treena Shapiro at email@example.com.