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Posted on Mar 9, 2021 in Latest Department News, Newsroom

(HONOLULU) – The 138-year-old earthen dam which resulted in evacuations on Maui on Monday, has been the focus of regulators. The Kaupakalua Dam in the Haiku region of Maui overtopped with water from its reservoir during historic rains yesterday. People living in the area were forced to evacuate as the dam’s owners and state and county emergency officials kept a close eye on the integrity of the aging structure.

On February 18th of last year, the dam’s owner, East Maui Irrigation Company (EMI) and Mahi Pono Holdings Inc., were sent a Notice of Deficiency (NOD) letter setting a compliance schedule to remediate the structure’s deficiencies. The owner has been working with the State in complying with this NOD, and in October 2020 submitted a dam safety permit application to remove this structure, which is targeted for construction this summer.  

A Notice of Civil Resource Violation from DLNR for “failure to comply with the remediation and monitoring actions and deadlines of the Notice of Deficiency letter dated Feb. 18, 2020 by the DLNR Engineering Division, Dam and Reservoir Safety Program” was issued on February 24, 2021. The notice notes specifically the failure to install a real-time reservoir water level gauge with the readings accessible on the internet by May 30, 2020, as required by state statutes. A water level gauge that was previously installed at the Kaupakalua Dam was stolen in 2018. The owner is working with the State to have this gauge replaced in addition to installing gauges at three other reservoirs on Maui (Kapalaalaea, Haiku, and Reservoir 24).

Due to the deficiencies noted in the NOD, DLNR has maintained an impoundment restriction for Kaupakalua to operate the reservoir empty. The owner has complied with this restriction for normal operations, except during storm events when water is passed through as quickly as possible.  

Of the 130 State-regulated dams in Hawai‘i,126 are classified as high or significant hazard potential structures due to proximity to people and structures downstream. All of the regulated dams, except one, now have Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) on file with DLNR, and all Emergency Action Plans have been migrated and updated on the DLNR’s “Easy EAP” tool. 

The Emergency Action Plan for Kaupakalua is what resulted in yesterday’s immediate public safety alerts and the evacuation of people downstream of the dam.

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case commented, “Our Dam and Reservoir Safety Program works continuously with private and public owners of dams and reservoirs to bring them into compliance with all required safety regulations. Yesterday’s overtopping of water over this dam certainly indicates the removal is necessary to protect people and property. We will continue to work with the dam owners around the state to ensure the optimum level of safety and awareness possible.”

The Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency is reminding people to know their hazards. Sign up for emergency alerts, have a plan, and prepare emergency kits for your home and vehicle.

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Media Contact:

Dan Dennison

Senior Communications Manager

(808) 587-0396

[email protected]