Maui News

136 Year Old Dam Overflows on Maui, Assessment Underway

By Wendy Osher
March 9, 2021, 6:24 AM HST
* Updated March 9, 8:34 AM
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Crews are assessing conditions and damages this morning after the Kaupakalua Dam on Maui overflowed on Monday, forcing mass evacuations of the Haʻikū area.  

Area residents were asked to stay away until assessments are complete today and an all clear is issued.

At least a half-dozen homes were heavily damaged or destroyed and more than a dozen calls were received for help from stranded residents trapped by the rising waters, according to county officials.

The earthen dam can hold 68 million gallons of water, stands 57 feet high and is 400-feet long, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.  It is described as one of the oldest agricultural dams on Maui, dating back 136 years to 1885 when it was constructed. The dam is owned by East Maui Irrigation, which is half owned by Mahi Pono and A&B.  

Emergency crews were alerted to the threat at 1:30 Monday afternoon with a report of extremely heavy rainfall and high water levels at the spillway, prompting a Level 2 emergency, meaning a potential for failure.  Just before 3 p.m., water had exceeded the top, threatening an estimated 30 parcels downhill.

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Maui remains under a flood watch through late tonight.  The National Weather Service advises that any additional heavy rain in the vicinity of the dam could lead to a short notice of warning conditions downstream, and residents should remain on alert of the potential threats to life and property.

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Awalau Road Washed Out Above Dam

The heavy rains also washed out a portion of Awalau Road in Haʻikū, which is located mauka of the dam. Residents say there was a destructive flow in a small riverbed that wiped out a portion of the road and is blocking off access for residents mauka from leaving the area.

Residents tell Maui Now that the homes located above the 500 block of Awalau are affected. The washout occurred on Awalau near Hikiau Road, East of Hanzawa’s Variety Store.

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Ha‘ikū and Hāna School today:

Ha‘ikū Elementary and Hāna High and Elementary schools will be in full distance learning today, March 9, due to the heavy rain and flooding conditions on the island. All instruction at both schools will be conducted remotely for today. Parents have been informed of the schedule changes.

Kaupakalua Dam overflow. (3.8.21) PC: Pacific Disaster Center
Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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