Council to visit Hanapepe Levee

SOURCE: Rayne Regush ( SUBHEAD: Five years after torrential rains damaged the Hanapepe Levee the Kauai County Council plans to take a look. By Juan Wilson on 23 June 2011 for Island Breath - ( Image above: The Hanapepe Levee in 2004 looking northeast from Swinging Bridge before the trouble. All photos by Juan Wilson. WHAT: Kauai County Council site visit to the Hanapepe Levee. WHEN: Tueday 28th July ~10:00am. Those interested should attend. In the spring of 2006 Kauai was flooded by 40 days of continuous rain. The most notable result was the failure of the Koloko Reservoir earthen dam that killed seven people and the Kuhio Highway near Kilauea. It made the national news. Wikipedia records (
An independent civil investigation of the dam failure attributed several possible conditions and practices that may have led to the dam failure.[1] For example, the State of Hawaii did not adequately inspect the dam and did not have enough dam inspectors to cover all of the antiquated dams in the state.[1] The owner of the dam (James Pflueger) performed grading operations near the dam without permits and may have filled in the emergency spillway for the dam.[1] Neither the current nor prior owners of the dam maintained the dam adequately.[1] Finally, the County of Kauai knew about the unpermitted grading operation, but did not enforce a stop-work order.[1]
But Koloko was not the only place where county, state and federal government has let things slip under the radar. Reservoirs and dams throughout Hawaii have been uninspected, ignored or worse. On the westside of Kauai two notable examples have been the Hanapepe and Waimea River levees. I live behind the Hanapepe Levee and am thus more familiar with its problems and details.
Image above: Kauai County using massive backhoe to strip vegetation off the side of the westside of the Hanapepe Levee. Briefly, the Hanapepe River has been undercutting its levee, particularly on the west bank. Since 2006 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has insisted that the levee embankments be cleared for inspection. This order was carried out by the county. Their efforts included cutting down all the trees and plants on the levee and spraying the embankments with Round-Up. This county spraying was done along the densely populated levee in town in the early morning hours and is the likely reason that one senior citizen experienced serious respiratory difficulties requiring medical attention and a young healthy pregnant women had a miscarriage within 48 hours.
Image above: Undercutting of the westside embankment of the lower Hanapepe River levee wall in 2009. This stripping of vegetation has continued despite vociferous complaints by local residents and accelerated the erosion of the levee walls. Only recently has the spraying been reduced by regular mowing. Back in 2008 Hanapepe residents were told by the county that it had budgeted $500,000 for reinforcement and replanting of the levee walls. None of this money was spent for those purposes. Only where there has been the threat of erosion cutting through the foot of the levee wall has any serious reinforcement been done. However, for the great majority of both sides of the Hanapepe levee there are deep undercuts, some places as high as six feet.
Image above: The Hanapepe Levee completely stripped of vegetation in 2010. Promises have been made to the community and not kept. The levee continues to degrade. And since the events in 2006 it has been decertified by the Army Corps. That means from an insurers point of view, it does not exist. Now the Kauai County Council plans to take a field trip to our levee on Tuesday July 28th, 2011. They will leave the Nawiliwili council chambers sometime after 9:00am, probably arriving in at the Hanapepe Levee near 10:00am. Those interested should attend. Suggestions to the County Council might include items for them to fight for:
  • Dredging the silt filled Hanapepe River to narrow the required river width.
  • Reinforcing the badly eroded western riverbank edge with boulders or rip-rap.
  • Providing a controlled reinforcing landscaping with appropriate groundcover.
  • Provide a hardened pedestrian walkway on the top of the levee.
  • Enforce restrictions on recreational vehicles on the levee walls.

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