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VIDEO: DLNR Conducts Aerial Assessment of Kaua‘i Flood Damage

April 19, 2018, 7:35 AM HST (Updated April 19, 2018, 7:35 AM)
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A helicopter survey tour of lands under the jurisdiction of the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources showed that many of Kaua‘i’s lands were left less impacted by last weekend’s historic flooding, while others were more devastated than originally thought.

Division of Forestry & Wildlife Kaua‘i Branch Manager Sheri S. Mann surveyed Waimea Canyon, parts of the Koke‘e and Alakai Plateau area, the Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve, the North Shore region, Powerline Trail and the entire Līhu‘e-Kōloa Forest Reserve (Wailua Bridge to North Fork Diversion) to check on potential flood and/or erosion damage from the recent storms that dropped more than three feet of rain on parts of Kaua‘i in the course of a few days, (April 14 and 15, 2018).

After the aerial survey, Mann said, “By and large most of the vast acreages of lands DLNR/DOFAW manage on Kaua‘i appear to have escaped the worst of the flooding. There are certainly areas that are badly eroded though, mostly in remote, inaccessible areas. Some roads on the North Shore are washed-out and impassable. Most of the recently built bridges, including three along Camp Ten Road in the Kōkeʻe area, seem to be sound and have had no impact. The same is true of the lower Waimea Canyon DOFAW managed lands & cabins.”

In the Wailua-Kapa‘a part of the island, however, several stream crossings (cement fords) are now gone and/or partially under deep water and there are numerous large trees laying across the Loop Road. Therefore, DOFAW has closed the eastern side of the Līhu‘e-Kōloa Forest Reserve until further notice. This means all vehicles should not travel beyond the new Keahua Bridge over the Wailua River, which was not damaged by what some are describing as a100-year flood.

At the second crossing inland from the Keahua Bridge, one half of the concrete ford platform was washed away, and at the third crossing water is estimated to be several feet deep. Due to thick tree cover it was difficult to see all sections of what’s known as the Loop Road, but Mann says there are likely numerous impassable or unsafe areas along that road.

“Until we can do a further assessment, we’re asking forest users of all kinds to please avoid this forest reserve,” said Mann. “We also don’t know what new impacts the predicted storms may bring the rest of this week, so it is important to think about safety when engaging some of these remote places on Kaua‘i.”

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The first of three pieces of heavy equipment from the Kaua‘i DOFAW base yard in Līhue, arrived at Lumahai beach on Kaua‘i’s north shore around noon on Wednesday, April 18. This equipment will join other government and private equipment working to remove numerous landslides, which are keeping Kūhiō Highway closed between Hanalei and Ke‘e Beach until further notice. This heavy equipment and experienced operators for them are being transported to specified areas where they are loaded onto a landing-craft barge that is often used to ferry supplies between Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau.

They were guided in by volunteers on jet skis, including surfing legend Laird Hamilton.

“We’re just doing everything we can, wherever we can to be the most helpful,” Hamilton told DLNR. “I’ve been trying to help coordinate barge landings. We’re trying to coordinate people in, people out. The phases of the operation change as we go. In the beginning it was getting the people who needed to get out, out. Now we’re trying to people and supplies in so they can start clearing the roads so we can create vehicular access.”

DOFAW heavy equipment operators, like Dabny Miguel, was on the barge from Pakala to Lumahai today. More heavy equipment is expected to arrive on Kaua‘i’s north shore on Thursday, April 19, that is only able to happen via a well connected and coordinated Emergency Operations Command Center that is making all of this happen.

Mann concluded, “What we saw surprised us on a number of levels; we didn’t expect to see the specific damages where we saw them, but we also were thankful that there was very little damage to areas that often get impacted by these kinds of storms. As Hamilton said, “Kaua‘i has experienced tsunamis, hurricanes and floods. The land and its people are very resilient and we will recover from this.”

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