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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 22, 2006

$14.3M for flood cleanup gets early approval

 •  Kaloko dam safety fixture disputed

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer

State Civil Defense director Maj. Gen. Robert Lee said at a briefing at the State Emergency Operating Center yesterday that he has asked for inspections of every dam in the state. With him are state agriculture director Sandra Kunimoto and state DLNR director Peter Young.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The administration has asked for $14.3 million in emergency appropriations to address damage from heavy rain and flooding across the state. The funds include:

  • $50,000 for a study on the impact existing dams and reservoirs have on agricultural operations, including the impact if they are removed.

  • $1 million to review legal issues related to dam and reservoir failures and safety issues related to existing dams and reservoirs. Funds also may cover possible litigation.

  • $2 million for operations expenses associated with storm recovery efforts, including 24-hour Civil Defense personnel, contractors helping to pump reservoirs, National Guard personnel on state active-duty status and Black Hawk helicopter operating expenses.

  • $5 million to hire consultants to conduct surveys, studies and assessments on the physical integrity of private and government-owned dams and reservoirs across the state, as well as identify potential threats to downstream areas.

  • $284,000 to respond to and assess flood damage at state parks and on state lands.

  • $2 million to repair road damage and stabilize road embankments on Kuhio Highway on Kaua'i.

  • $800,000 in state funds plus $3.2 million in federal funds to design and construct emergency roadway erosion remediation at various locations on Kaua'i.

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    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 tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.