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$9 million needed for county flood repairs

Public Works identifies damaged structures in Haiku, other locations

Rain and floodwaters flow through a washed-out section of a bridge on Peahi Road in Haiku on March 9. The county Public Works Department estimates that it will take about $9 million to repair nine county roads, bridges and other structures hit by catastrophic flooding in Haiku and other locations last month. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

It will take about $9 million to repair nine County of Maui roads, bridges and other structures hit by catastrophic flooding last month, though none of them are downstream of Kaupakalua Dam in Haiku, according to a county Public Works Department report.

Of the nine projects, about half are in the Haiku area and others are located in Kula, Kaupo, Makena, Polipoli and Kahului.

The most costly project is the $3 million repair of Kaupakalua Bridge at Peahi Road, which is mauka of the dam and reservoir. Work will include abutment reconstruction at the east approach, construction of a new bridge deck and repairs to asphalt pavement at both the east and the west approaches.

Slope stabilization and guardrail repair at Haiku Road near Hog Back Road will cost about $2.3 million. Other costly projects include the $1.5 million repair of Awalau Road in Haiku and the $1.3 million Kaupakalua Road shoulder stabilization at Lepo Street.

Haiku, which broke all-time records for March rainfall last month, experienced massive flooding on March 8 that damaged homes, inundated roads and wiped out bridges. After water began to top the Kaupakalua Dam, Haiku and Peahi residents downstream were evacuated.

A map shows the location of county roads and bridges in need of repair following massive flooding in Haiku in early March. Map courtesy Maui County Public Works Department

Built in 1885, the East Maui Irrigation dam and reservoir is half owned by Mahi Pono. A plan was underway prior to the flooding to remove the dam this summer after a state report found the structure in “unsatisfactory” overall condition, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Maui County Council Vice-Chairwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez and Council Member Kelly King said during a council meeting on Friday that they wanted to hold the dam owners “accountable” for county damages linked to the dam.

The council voted 8-0, with one excused, to use $9 million from the county’s emergency fund to cover the projects. An amendment that was also unanimously approved said that “the department must present the plan for emergency funding use and a plan for cost recovery from the property owners of Kaupakalua reservoir, East Maui Irrigation and Mahi Pono Holdings Inc. to the council by the department prior to the work commencing and provide the council annual financial and performance reports on the funding.”

Introduced by Rawlins-Fernandez, the amendment’s aim is to bring “transparency” to how the funds are used to repair infrastructure that was damaged by the dam’s overflow.

“We know that the state officials sent a notification to the property owners, a notice of deficiency letter, setting a compliance schedule to (fix) the structure’s deficiencies,” she said during the meeting. “The property owners were well aware of the deficiencies of the dam and the potential damage that it could cause. I feel that it’s unfair for the taxpayers to foot the bill for the cost of all the damages that this dam ultimately caused to the county’s infrastructure.”

However, the Public Works Department report and corresponding maps show that the county’s Haiku projects slated for repair are not downstream of the dam.

“The project areas are either mauka of the dam or away from the dam,” said Public Works Director Rowena Dagdag-Andaya. “I don’t think they would’ve been affected by the dam.”

Outside of Haiku, post-flood projects include Kealakapu Road pavement and erosion repairs, $550,000; Polipoli Road embankment repair, $100,000; Makena Road Crossing at Kaukahi Street, $50,000; Piilani Highway crossing at Nuu Gulch washout, $25,000; and Molokai Akau Street sinkhole at Pohaku Street in Kahului repair, $25,000, according to the Public Works report.

The department has started preliminary work on the emergency repair projects in order to expedite the projects and to be eligible for the provisions granted under the emergency proclamations issued by Gov. David Ige and Mayor Michael Victorino.

The proposal to use $9 million in emergency funds must go to a second reading before the council.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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