Officials celebrate launch of flood control project
LAHAINA — Culminating more than 30 years of effort, construction of the Lahaina Watershed Flood Control Project is under way.
A groundbreaking and blessing for the first phase of the project was held Friday morning at the project base yard above the Mill Street Cane Haul Road.
Work began Dec. 14 on the system of waterways to intercept and divert floodwater above Lahaina Town.
Expected to be completed by Aug. 27, the first section includes construction of an outlet structure, highway culvert and sediment basin at Waianukole near Launiupoko by contractor Kiewit Pacific Co. Total cost is $6.26 million.
The two-mile flood control channel will extend from Lahainaluna Road to Waianukole, two-thirds-of-a-mile south of Puamana Park. About 10,000 feet of the proposed channel will be grass-lined.
The remainder of the channel system will include four sediment basins, one debris basin on Kauaula Stream and one inlet basin near Lahainaluna Road.
Ocean outlets will be located at Makila Point through Kauaula Stream and Waianukole. Both will have sediment basins to reduce flood debris that enter the ocean.
Mayor Charmaine Tavares said the project will greatly benefit Lahaina and its nearshore waters.
She saw the impacts of flooding in Lahaina Town after powerful storms hit in 1997 and 2003. The goal is to prevent emergencies, not react to them, Tavares added.
“I am very, very pleased that this project is starting, finally,” she commented.
West and South Maui Sen. Roz Baker said the flood control system will help keep soil “on land and out of the sea,” where it harms the reefs.
Sen. Baker thanked the many partners that worked on the project for decades, including the West Maui Soil & Water Conservation District (WMSWCD), the County of Maui, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
WMSWCD Chairman James Nobriga, the son of retired chairman David “Buddy” Nobriga, discussed the long history of the project.
He explained that land management in the upper areas of the 5,250-acre Lahaina Watershed dropped off when the Pioneer Mill sugar operation shut down in 1999.
District members helped establish temporary flood control measures along Lahainaluna Road above Puamana and lobbied for the comprehensive system now being built.
Nobriga said the county and NRCS helped make the project possible.
Bill Hollingsworth of NRCS said the flood control system will protect 340 acres from flooding damage, reduce sediment entering the ocean and protect reefs.
“It’s a great day for Lahaina, the County of Maui and Hawaii,” he commented.
Kahu Earl Kukahiko performed the blessing.
According to the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project, when complete, the system could protect Lahaina against a “100-year” storm — an event so powerful, there is only a one percent chance of it occurring in any year.
The county expects to build the 42-acre project in five phases.