A 10-year-old problem with flooding in Mapunapuna is costing Honolulu taxpayers millions of dollars.
The city’s failure to clear debris and other potential blocks from Maunalua Stream prompted the settlement but officials won’t say whether the problems have been resolved.
On Wednesday, the Honolulu City Council approved a $2.7 million settlement with dozens of businesses and residents for a 2003 storm that caused the Maunalua Stream in the Salt Lake area to breach its banks.
At the time, then-Gov. Linda Lingle issued an emergency proclamation saying a “severe, sudden, and extraordinary event” resulted in major economic damages to the state and allowed victims to seek public aid.
“While we were fortunate that the flood damage was not widespread, for those whose homes or businesses were damaged, this is still a disaster,” Lingle said, according a Dec. 24, 2003 Honolulu Advertiser article.
But in a lawsuit filed two years later it was the city that was blamed for the damage, not a freak natural occurrence. The settlement approved Wednesday stems from that claim.
The lawsuit says the City and County of Honolulu could have prevented the extent of the flooding that occurred in 2003, but that officials had failed to keep Maunalua Stream clear of debris, such as silt, trees and other vegetation.
“This failure under the circumstances was unreasonable,” the lawsuit says. It contends the city failed to maintain Moanalua Stream ‘in a suitable condition to carry off storm waters,’ or otherwise prevent it from overflowing its banks.”
State mandates require the city to keep all natural and artificial channels, including streams and drainage ways, clear of any obstructions so that stormwater can flow freely.
The lawsuit says the city failed to do this even though it has “reasonable” means to dredge, clear and maintain Moanalua Stream.
Now taxpayers are on the hook for $1.85 million of the $2.7 million settlement approved Wednesday. The rest will be covered by the city’s insurance policy.
The Mapunapuna area has been prone to flooding for decades. Not only does the stream course through the area, but it’s in a low-lying coastal zone that has brought salt water into the streets during high tide.
The city has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to find a solution to the problem, but officials are now refusing to release any information to Civil Beat about these projects and whether they have been effective in curbing flooding in the area.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke cited additional litigation involving other flood-related cases as the reason for not commenting on the matter.
Read the committee report approving the settlement:
Read the 2005 complaint about the flooding: