Maui News

Owners of Two Dams Fined for Failure to Timely Address Risks

April 10, 2021, 10:31 AM HST
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The state Board of Land and Natural Resources fined the owners of dams on O‘ahu and Hawai‘i Island for “not addressing risks associated with major deficiencies to dam structures,” the state Department of Land and Natural Resources reports.  

One of the owners of the Wahiawa Dam, the Dole Food Company Hawai‘i on O‘ahu, was fined $20,000. The owner of the Keaīwa Reservoir on Hawai‘i Island, the Edmund C. Olson Trust No. II, was fined $7,500.  

Keaīwa Reservoir on Hawai‘i Island (left) and Wahiawa Dam on O‘ahu (right). PC: dams.hawaii.gov

The DLNR Dam Safety Program presented the enforcement actions to the Land Board to ensure dam owners move forward with the necessary steps to maintain their dam structures and comply with safety standards and regulations set forth in state law.  

Carty Chang, DLNR’s Chief Engineer said, “The goal of the Dam Safety Program is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of everyone by reducing the risk of failure of dams and reservoirs. These enforcement actions will help our program more effectively work with dam owners to ensure they meet their requirements to minimize risks to lives and property while also preserving these valuable water resources that provide many beneficial uses for the people of Hawai‘i.”  

Chang added, “It is extremely important to recognize that our aging dam structures need to be able to withstand severe storm events. It’s not just the law, it’s in the best interest of our community and future generations.”  

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DLNR Chair Suzanne Case, who also serves as Chair of the Land Board, said, “These are proactive steps towards staying ahead of our aging dams and the impacts of climate change, bringing more frequent and more intense rainstorms, which collectively, can be disastrous if not addressed today. Moving forward, we will continue to work with dam owners to keep our communities safe and to preserve the benefits created by the dams.” 

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A third enforcement action was brought against the owner of Ukumehame reservoir on Maui. A representative of the owner, West Maui Investors, LLC, requested a contested case hearing, so that matter was deferred pending that procedure. 

The issue of dam safety resurfaced recently with the overflow of Maui’s Kaupakalua Dam in March. The 136-year-old earthen dam had been cited for deficiencies last year and owners had applied for permits to remove the structure for it to be decommissioned.

Ukumehame Reseroirs. PC: dams.hawaii.gov

For more information on regulated dams in Hawai‘i: www.dams.hawaii.gov 

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