Iao Valley parks recovering

Kepaniwai visitors will have a smaller parking lot

Maui County is looking to re-open Kepaniwai Park by the first half of March. Floodwaters in September tore into the parking lot of the park, which was closed. Rocks have been piled up along what had been a sheer drop carved by the floodwaters. The county does not plan to repave the portion of the lot that fell away. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Closed for months following massive flooding in September, Iao Valley State Monument and Kepaniwai Park are both expected to re-open this year, county and state officials said.

With final repairs underway, the county is looking to re-open Kepaniwai Park by the first half of March, county spokesman Rod Antone said Tuesday. Meanwhile, the state hopes to have Iao Valley State Monument ready by June 1, “as originally planned,” state Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell said late last week.

Currently, county departments are busy with repairs and other projects in the park, Antone said. The list of tasks for the Department of Water Supply includes chlorination of water in the line, taking down some UV equipment, doing some carpentry work and repairing the asphalt along the driveway and parking lot of the park, Antone said. Meanwhile, the Department of Parks & Recreation is fixing pavilion rooftops and repairing asphalt.

Clusters of boulders now take up the space where a large chunk of the Kepaniwai parking lot was swept away by the flood. Temporary fences line the edge of the crumbled lot. For now, the county does not plan to repave the portion that fell away.

“People are just going to have to live with a smaller parking lot now,” Antone said.

This photo was taken on Sept. 14, the day after the flood. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Meanwhile, the county Department of Public Works has finished removing debris in the valley. The department currently is working to remove sediment that filled the flood control debris basin during the New Year’s Eve storm.

“Because our county workers made repairs to the flood control so quickly by using local materials, there was no sort of flood event into Iao Parkside on New Year’s Eve,” said Antone, referring to heavy rains and increased stream flows late in the year.

Meanwhile, Cottrell said the timeline for Iao Valley state park will depend on weather and contractors. The work still left to do includes stabilizing the streambank and cliffs adjacent to the lower access road and parking, mitigating rockfall and stabilizing the bridge.

Gov. David Ige’s budget also includes a $12 million capital improvement project request for more planning and construction to improve the entire park area, taking into account “current and potential future stream impacts,” Cottrell said.

On Sept. 13, heavy rain and a rising Wailuku River flooded Iao Valley homes, forced evacuations, destroyed park facilities and carried large vehicles and boulders downstream.

Workers from the Maui County Department of Water Supply build a stone headwall around the flush-out of a new 12-inch waterline in Iao Valley above Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens on Tuesday morning. The new line connects the intake to a small treatment facility in the county park. It runs under the park’s parking lot and driveway and replaces an old line that reportedly ran underneath both the Japanese and Portuguese cultural pavilions. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

For 24 hours after the storm, residents in the valley were without water. Flooding wiped out a 250-foot pipeline leading from the groundwater source tunnel at Kepaniwai Park to the treatment plant and put two Iao Valley water facilities out of service.

Government officials estimated the damage to public property and facilities to be at least $15 million. Following the storm, Ige issued an emergency proclamation and said he would seek federal assistance for repairs. In October, the County Council approved $5 million for overtime payment and disaster costs.

However, repairs were put on hold temporarily after residents protested the movement of rocks in the valley and expressed concerns that Wailuku Water Co. was realigning the river. Wailuku Water Co. and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers both contended that the company did not go outside the scope of its permit.

Rocks that were initially removed from the stream by the county were later returned to the valley.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.