HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – City officials say this week’s torrential rainstorms and flooding highlight the need for a better flood control system for Oahu.
But critics say it wouldn’t have prevented much of the storm’s damage.
The heavy rains dumped nearly 8 inches of rain in the urban core on Monday, flooding low-lying areas and turning Kalakaua Avenue into a muddy creek.
“There’s an absolute need for flood control measures when you consider what’s at stake. First of all, we have 200,000 residents living in that area,” said Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi.
“Secondly, Waikiki and … tourism is our economic engine is seriously at risk.”
But critics said city planners should take notice that most damage happened to homes above the city’s streams not below them.
“The real questions is whether the proposed Ala Wai Flood Control Project would have prevented any of the damage that occurred and the answer is no,” said David Kimo Frankel, attorney for Protect our Ala Wai Watersheds.
“Those of us who have grown up here are used to the streets ponding.”
Frankel and others have been fighting the project for years largely because it would have condemned land owned by kamaaina families.
Frankel said this week’s storm shows the situation is not as dire as it may appear.
“It is not a reason to spend $350 million to destroy stream life to prevent some ponding of some roads,” he said
That original plan — which was dropped due to community opposition — called for a wall around the Ala Wai to prevent a 100-year flood.
The city and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are now spending $3 million to come up with a scaled-back version.
“So this time around, I think they’re going to build something more like a 50-year storm,” Blangiardi said.
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