Council approves funds for Waiakea Stream flood channel repairs

  • Courtesy of U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS Waiakea Stream, looking downstream from the end of the channel lining toward Kawailani Street in Hilo.

  • Courtesy of U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS Waiakea Stream, looking from the end of the channel lining near Kawailani Street in Hilo.

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Flooding debris from Hurricane Lane riddles the soccer fields at Hilo Bayfront on Aug. 28, 2018.

The Hawaii County Council approved $1 million in funding toward a project to repair damage to the Waiakea Stream flood channel caused by Hurricane Lane last year.

The project is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and will repair key sections of the channel between the Kawailani and Komohana bridges in Hilo.

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Dino Buchanan, public affairs chief for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Honolulu District, wrote via email that based on the project’s preliminary construction timeline, repairs are anticipated to be completed by the end of January 2020.

“According to the project paperwork I’m looking at, the project is pretty high priority,” said County Councilwoman Maile David, who introduced the funding bill that was passed at last week’s council meeting. “That area was hit pretty hard.”

The repair work will include installing new riprap — rocks and other materials placed along a shore to shield it from erosion — along the banks of the stream and repairing or replacing concrete lining parts of the channel, Buchanan wrote. These repairs will largely be in the vicinity of Olioli Way, a small residential street a little more than 100 feet from the stream.

Buchanan said the repair work is similar to work done in 2009 in the wake of Hurricane Felicia, which struck the Big Island in August as a tropical depression and caused heavy rains and flooding.

Hurricane Lane, which struck the island in August last year, shattered nearly all rainfall records for the month and was estimated to have caused approximately $20 million in damage to the county’s infrastructure.

David said funding for the project is split 80/20 between the county and the Army Corps of Engineers. With the county supplying $1 million, the Army Corps will provide the remainder, about $4 million.

Neither David nor Buchanan could provide a definite start date for the project, but David said with the county side of the funding approved, the project can go ahead whenever the Corps decides.

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Denise Laitinen, spokeswoman for the county Department of Public Works, clarified that this Waiakea Stream restoration project is separate from a series of similar flood control projects for the Waiakea and Palai streams proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers earlier this year. Those projects would center around the Hilo Municipal Golf Course, Kupulau Road and Ainalako Road, and would begin construction in 2021.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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