Mālama ʻĪao: Riverside Residents Seek Help to Protect Life, Property
About 40 riverside residents of ʻĪao Valley gathered for an emergency neighborhood meeting on Thursday evening expressing an urgency to protect their lives and property from any additional rains and flooding after a torrent of water from a flash flood Tuesday night swept chunks of land downstream and through some homes.
While some are unable to return without substantial rebuilding, others are hoping to protect what still remains.
“I sit writing this now listening to rain patter on the window…dreading what this might mean when the sun rises in the morning,” resident Kainoa Horcajo wrote last night as he joined others in the valley to create a Mālama ʻĪao You Caring Crowdfunding account.
Most expressed anxiety over the danger that additional rains could pose saying it wouldn’t take much to undermine already saturated land and structures that now sit precariously close to the river.
“To me, its a simple fix. We need excavators,” said resident Allan Ornellas. “This thing up here is not going to wait for permits,” he said, looking up at the sky and referencing the ongoing flood watch and season ahead.
“We have two more months of hurricane season and then wet season comes,” said Horcajo, who’s cottage now sits three feet from the river. “Will our cottage still be there? Will our neighbors house still be there? How many more families in ʻĪao Valley will lose more acres of land, taken by the river which has overflowed its banks far beyond the 100 year flood zone, far beyond what anyone in recorded history has seen,” he wrote.
One resident said, “The river bed just below Kepaniwai Bridge is now at a higher elevation than our properties. This will be catastrophic when the next flood waters come down.”
Residents say the river carved a new path that makes the waterway much wider than it was before, doubling its width in some locations and moving its boundary closer to the road than it used to be.
Ornellas reported that the riverbed rose near his property going from a 20 foot drop-off before to just two feet now, saying he can now just step into the river at his property. The opposite is true for the Horcajo’s where the river dug a path that doubled in depth from an 8 feet drop before to what is now a 16 foot drop-off.
Residents began dialogue with county representatives who attended the meeting, including Rowena Dagdag-Andaya, Deputy Director of the Maui Public Works Department. “Communication among the residents of the area with the county will be key during this response/recovery phase,” she said.
The county is currently following up on protocols for debris collection and residential requests to waive tipping fees. According to Dagdag-Andaya, the county’s Civil Defense agency is currently working on getting a team together to assess property damage. For areas outside of the county’s jurisdiction, contact is being made with the Army Corp. of Engineers, which is involved with flood control measures.
Horcajo, whose property is just to the right upon entry into the valley said hopefully, immediate debris removal can be done to realign the river and protect homes all the way up the river.
“With every tragedy there’s some good that comes out,” said Lisa Higa, whose family was rescued from the roof of their home during the rising flood. “It makes us humble and reminds us that we are one,” she said.
“ʻĪao Valley is one of the most culturally significant, beautiful, and spiritual places in Hawaiʻi. One only needs to spend a short amount of time here to understand that deep in your soul. Thank you for whatever you can do to help us protect that,” said Horcajo.
*Footage/Video report from Sept. 14, 2016.