Frequently Asked Questions

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If I want to provide feedback or have a question about the project, who can I contact? Will my concerns be considered/addressed?

The public is encouraged to communicate with their locally elected leaders, City and County of Honolulu, and the state of Hawaii. The Honolulu District is in constant communication with our partners and the Corps welcomes the opportunity to answer specific project questions.  Once an agreement is in place between USACE and our non-Federal partners, formal channels will be established for the public to communicate questions or concerns.

 If you have a question for USACE about the project, please email them to AlaWaiFloodProject@usace.army.mil

 
Some people have raised concerns about how they can be assured the detention ponds and other structures will be properly maintained. What is your plan for this?

A partnership agreement will be signed with our non-Federal Partner, which may be the state of Hawaii, the City and County or both. Within that agreement is a requirement to maintain the project into perpetuity in accordance with the project guidelines.  As such, it will be inspected annually by USACE who will provide a report to the sponsor to ensure project features are in good working order and ensure resiliency during a storm event. Operations and maintenance is an integral part of the overall project design. Design development includes safety assurance reviews by the USACE Dam Safety Center and technical reviews to ensure a level of safety and operability.  The structures will also be constructed to meet Hawaii Dam Safety requirements so that the non-Federal Partner can maintain the project features in a way that will ensure the safety of the community and the project.

 

Why is this project needed and what's at stake if we don't get it done soon?  

With the increased frequency of storms in the Pacific, the geographic nature of the watershed, the increased development of the watershed, and the unique micro-climates within the watershed, there are significant flood risks to the people in the community, damage to the infrastructure, and risks to the people who work in and visit Waikiki.  This project seeks to implement an integrated system of project features that operate together to reduce those risks.  In areas that are not provided direct protection, a warning system will be constructed that will provide an opportunity for residences to be proactive during an event.  Hurricane Lane (2018) was a near miss, however, with the increasing number of storms and intensity of those storms, this project is necessary to protect the community, the infrastructure, and the economy from the risks of those future storms.  The intent of the appropriating legislation and the project team has been to work as quickly as possible to ensure that protection is in place before a major storm arrives.

 

A City of Honolulu Councilwoman has stated she objects to private lands being taken for this project and that the project should be on public lands. Why are private lands being taken and how feasible would it be to redo the project sites using only public lands?

The objective of this project is to reduce the damages and risks associated with flooding in the Ala Wai Watershed. The project study examined many different alternatives and measures, maximizing the use of public lands where feasible.  The project was developed to minimize the impact to private lands and maximize the use of public lands, but some impacts to private lands are unavoidable.  The project itself has been authorized by Congress. While minor changes to the size, scale, and precise location of the project features may occur, the project is the recommended plan included in the Feasibility Report.  

 

How many private owners do you expect will have their homes and lands or a portion of their homes and lands taken away to make way for this project?

Preliminary designs and real estate requirements are included in the Feasibility Report, available on the USACE website (https://www.poh.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Civil-Works-Projects/Ala-Wai-Canal/). 

Because the designs for the project are not complete, it is inappropriate to speculate on the exact location and size of the project features. USACE and our partners will complete data collection at specific project sites to further inform the design.  During the Feasibility study, the state of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) encouraged all private homeowners to participate in public meetings and comment periods if their property was identified as potentially falling within the footprint of the project area.  Rights of entry to public and private property were requested in October 2018 for a preliminary data gathering exercise, and additional rights of entry will be requested of private landowners in 2019 to make additional data gathering efforts to further refine project designs.  Acquisition of private lands is highly regulated under Federal law and is the responsibility of the non-Federal partner.

 

Some local citizens have raised concerns about a lack of transparency and proper protocol for the Ala Wai Flood Management project. Some allegations state some stakeholders were left out of the EIS and revised EIS process and public outreach wasn't done when the scope of the project was revised. Is there a means to submit new comments to be part of the planning for this project?

People are encouraged to communicate with their locally elected leaders, City and County of Honolulu, and the state of Hawaii. The Honolulu District is in constant communication with our partners on this project and welcomes specific project questions. Once an agreement is in place between USACE and our non-Federal partners, formal channels will be established for the public to communicate questions or concerns.

There was significant public participation and outreach from 2004 to 2015 to meet the Federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements and also to follow the Hawaii state environmental compliance policies to the extent possible. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) held a public meeting, presentation and open comment session with the public during the public review period on Sept. 30, 2015, which was attended by approximately 180 people. The public review produced written comments from 64 individuals and organizations, which USACE and DLNR provided individualized written responses. Since 2012 the Feasibility Study Report documents 44 other specific engagements with stakeholders including open houses, focus groups, and specific agency outreach.  Prior to 2012, there was also a significant amount of outreach documented in the Feasibility Study Report, however, this was during a phase of the study which focused on multiple project purposes (ecosystem restoration, flood risk management), so most of the material in the Feasibility Study Report is centered on the period after 2012 when the study was re-scoped to focus exclusively on flood risk management. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Honolulu District worked in cooperation with both the City and County of Honolulu and the state of Hawaii on developing the Feasibility Study, community outreach, and developing the recommended plan.  Any party who submitted comments during the public review of the document received a written response to their specific comments from USACE and the State DLNR.  

 

There have been concerns about the 4-foot concrete flood mitigation wall around the Ala Wai Canal. Some agencies say they would only support the project if the wall were placed on the opposite side of the sidewalk. Is this part of the project still up for debate? Could you consider moving the wall to the other side of the sidewalk?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state of Hawaii and the City and County are working together on the layout, design, and level of protection. The design was approved for a flood wall because of space constraints, and the need to protect the surrounding areas from riverine flood drainage and sea level rise in the Ala Wai Canal.  People are encouraged to communicate their concerns and suggestions to the project partners as they understand our requirements and boundaries of authority. Decisions will be made in cooperation with our partners.

 

What are the deadlines to use the federal and state funding allocated for the project? Could these deadlines be extended?

The appropriation received from Congress is an emergency appropriation to invest in projects located in areas prone to flooding that was determined to be economically justified and environmentally compliant. There is no expiration of funds provided under PL 115-123, for the Long Term Disaster Recovery Investment Program.  It is at the discretion of the Congress and Assistant Secretary of Army for Civil Works to reallocate funding from those projects if projects do not proceed. 

 

Is this project taking into account the purported effects of climate change?

It is USACE policy to integrate climate change preparedness and resilience planning and actions in all activities for the purpose of enhancing the resilience of our built and natural water-resource infrastructure and the effectiveness of our military support mission, and to reduce the potential vulnerabilities of that infrastructure and those missions to the effects of climate change and variability. USACE shall continue undertaking its climate change preparedness and resilience planning, in consultation with internal and external experts and with our districts, divisions, and Centers, and shall implement the results of that planning using the best available – and actionable – climate science and climate change information. USACE is on the forefront of federal construction agencies in integrating climate change (including sea -level change) into project planning and climate change adaptation into project design, construction, and repair. Honolulu District works closely with state and local partners to provide a better understanding of (and ways to reduce) erosion, within our missions and authorities.

 

Some people have raised concerns about how they can be assured the detention ponds and other structures will be properly maintained. What is your plan for this?

A partnership agreement will be signed with our non-Federal Partner, which may be the state of Hawaii, the City and County or both. Within that agreement is a requirement to maintain the project into perpetuity in accordance with the project guidelines.  As such, it will be inspected annually by USACE who will provide a report to the sponsor to ensure project features are in good working order and ensure resiliency during a storm event. Operations and maintenance is an integral part of the overall project design. Design development includes safety assurance reviews by the USACE Dam Safety Center and technical reviews to ensure a level of safety and operability.  The structures will also be constructed to meet Hawaii Dam Safety requirements so that the non-Federal Partner can maintain the project features in a way that will ensure the safety of the community and the project.

 

What is the current status of this project?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been authorized to move forward from the Feasibility Phase to the Design and Construction Phase, meaning the project is economically justified and environmentally compliant and has received authorization from Congress for construction.  The USACE Honolulu District has been working with the State and City and County of Honolulu to identify the appropriate non-Federal partner to move the project into the Design and Construction Phase.  The state of Hawaii, City and County of Honolulu, and USACE Honolulu District will continue further community involvement after the project sponsor has been identified and agreements have been reached for partnership.  In the meantime, USACE Honolulu District is working to refine data collected during the Feasibility Phase through site- specific surveys; as appropriate we will communicate with Stakeholders in cooperation with the State and City and County. The intent has been to assist the City and County of Honolulu and state of Hawaii in implementing this project to protect the people, infrastructure, and economy within the Ala Wai Watershed.

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Key Messages: Hawai‘i Wildfires Response

USACE Media Line: 808-835-4062
HawaiiFiresMedia@usace.army.mil

USACE Debris Call Center: 877-214-9117

(DATED May 13, 2024)

 

COMMAND MESSAGES

COMMAND MESSAGES

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brings unique capabilities to the Hawai‘i wildfires response. We are just one piece of the much larger federal family actively supporting recovery efforts.
  • Public safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to minimizing risks to the public while respecting the people, culture and environment of Hawai‘i.
  • USACE is working with the state of Hawai’i, Lahaina-based community leaders, cultural leaders, kupuna (elders) and other statewide native Hawaiian organizations to ensure we understand and respect the rich culture of the community.  
  • We share our deepest condolences to the families who have lost loved ones and the people of Hawai‘i whose homes, businesses and communities were impacted by the wildfires.

GENERAL MISSION TALKING POINTS

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is here at the request of FEMA and was given mission assignments to remove fire debris from the towns of Lahaina and Kula, prepare a temporary housing group site and to build the temporary King Kamehameha III Elementary School.
  • To date, we have had more than 1,125 employees volunteer from across the nation to support the people of Maui in their recovery efforts. We currently have around 112 people on Maui actively supporting the recovery and about 45 across the nation, supporting in a remote capacity.
  • Maui County's comprehensive website for information and resources for survivors of the Hawai‘i wildfires is MauiRecovers.org.

Commander’s Priorities

  • Be safe
  • Be an ambassador for USACE
  • Be accountable
  • Be respectful of cultural sensitivities

MISSION TALKING POINTS

Temporary Housing

  • USACE received a FEMA mission assignment Oct. 28, 2023, to provide conceptual design, site preparation, and construction for temporary housing. FEMA is responsible for the procurement and installation of the actual temporary housing units.
  • USACE developed a site plan for 169 temporary homes in Lahaina, and we issued a contract April 11 to begin installing the infrastructure necessary to place homes and welcome survivors. (Aktarius, LLC dba Dawson AKT is the contractor.)
  • The housing site will consist of grading 34 acres of land near Lahaina, off of Fleming Road, and then installing the water and sewer lines, electricity and streets to support the temporary group site.
  • Our contractor began site preparations began May 6, and we anticipate heavy construction work and blasting mid-May.
  • Once blasting begins, we anticipate there will generally be one blast per day, a few days a week for three months. Blasts will typically occur in the afternoon.
  • Starting around the middle of July we anticipate closures to Flemming Road, while our contractor works on the sewer extension. Alternate routes will need to be used when portions of Fleming Road. are under construction. At this time, we do not have exact dates as to when this will be.
  • It will take approximately six months to complete construction of the site due to the size of the project and the need to install the infrastructure on hard rock, which will most likely require blasting and heavy earthwork.
  • FEMA will begin placing temporary housing units on the site once the infrastructure is finished.

Debris and Ash Removal

  • The Hawai‘i wildfire cleanup requires a coordinated removal effort that includes FEMA, USACE, the EPA, the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency and Maui County.
  • We received a FEMA mission to remove debris from residential, commercial and public parcels in the towns of Lahaina and Kula Aug. 28, 2023.
  • We encourage property and business owners who want to participate in the debris removal program to contact Maui County to fill out a right-of-entry form.
  • The cleanup process includes two phases. Phase 1 includes items such as site assessments, hazardous household material removal, and bulk asbestos material removal, and Phase 2 is removal of other fire-related debris, such as ash, hazardous trees and concrete foundations.
  • Cultural monitoring is being conducted at all times to help protect the cultural heritage of Hawai‘i and Native Hawaiian people. Native Hawaiian, Maui-based cultural advisors are leading these efforts throughout the process.
  • Property owners who have questions about private property debris removal may call our debris call center at (877) 214-9117.
  • We are working through our issue resolution process to address concerns related to damaged associated to the debris cleanup.

Kula

  • USACE and our partners began Phase 2 debris removal in Kula Nov. 7, 2023, and successfully completed that effort Jan. 19.
  • We cleared ash and debris from 25 Kula properties.
  • All wildfire debris removed from Kula was delivered to the Central Maui Landfill.

Lahaina

  • USACE and our partners began Phase 2 debris removal in Lahaina Jan. 16.
  • As of May 11, 2024, we have cleared around 996 residential properties of debris and 21 commercial properties.
  • As of May 11, 2024, we have Completed around 444 properties and returned them to the county.
  • Note: The big “C” refers to properties that are returned to the county, and the little “c” is properties that have been cleared from ash and debris.
  • As of May 11, 2024, we have removed nearly 2,261 damaged vehicles.

Trees

  • Our goal, along with our federal, state and local partners is to preserve as many of the remaining trees in the impacted areas as possible.
  • USACE contracted with registered foresters and arborists that partnered with Maui County to complete Hazardous Tree Assessments in the impacted areas.
  • Trees that pose an imminent falling threat into the public right-of-way, or that present a hazard to workers or the work zone, have been marked for removal. Unmarked trees will not be removed.
  • Property owners are encouraged to document on their right-of-entry form, any trees on their property that they want to keep. Maui County arborists will review these requests with their federal, state and local partners and provide a determination.

Temporary Debris Disposal Site

  • We are moving the debris from Lahaina to the Olowalu Temporary Debris Disposal Site, located just east of Lahaina.
  • Holding Statement for environmental concerns.
    • We are aware of concerns raised regarding water runoff at the Olowalu Temporary Debris Disposal Site. We and our contractor installed mitigation controls to manage storm water and site water appropriately using best management practices to protect the environment. We strive to ensure all our activities are in accordance with best practices to ensure the safety of our employees, contractors, community and the environment. We are working in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others to support the state of Hawai‘i and the county of Maui as they recover from the wildfires.

Deferred Properties

  • If a property is marked “Deferred” or “Partially Deferred,” it means there is a safety hazard on the site such as a standing wall or fire-damaged tree that could collapse or fall. USACE will not allow our workers to enter that site until the safety hazard is mitigated.
  • Once the site is made safe, we will proceed with Phase I assessment, removing hazardous materials, hazardous household waste and bulk asbestos materials. When we have cleared the environmental or hazardous issue, we will remove any deferred signs and the property owner will be allowed re-entry to their property prior to Phase 2 debris removal.

Insurance and Paying for Non-eligible Debris

  • Neither USACE nor our contractors collect money or insurance proceeds from property owners for debris removal.
  • Insurance questions are not in USACE’s purview. Property owners are strongly encouraged to contact the county of Maui and their insurance company directly for specific details regarding insurance settlements.

Debris Ash Concerns and Air Monitoring

  • USACE is dedicated to minimizing the dust produced from debris removal operations. Our contractor is using a water-spraying method to eliminate the material from becoming airborne.
  • The USACE prime contractor, Environmental Chemical Corporation, completed an air monitoring and surveillance plan that was accepted by Hawai‘i Department of Health.
  • USACE Contractors have real-time perimeter air monitors adjacent to work locations. If there are exceedances of action levels, the contractor will stop work, assess, and remediate the situation as necessary, before restarting work.
  • The air monitoring program is being overseen by an ECC certified industrial hygienist. Calibrated air sampling pumps are used to collect personal exposure samples for asbestos, metals, and respirable dust/crystalline silica. We will use the results of these tests throughout the debris removal process to assess the appropriate personal protective equipment, or PPE, that needs to be used by site workers.
  • Contractors entering the “hot zone,” or ash footprint, are required to be in Tyvek suits and half-face respirators since they are working directly in the debris zone and moving about in the ash.
  • Workers immediately outside the hot zone as delineated by the contractors with red marking tape, are not moving about in the ash, and therefore, not required to be in Tyvek suits.
  • All workers at minimum are required to be in hard hat, safety shoes, safety glasses, and reflective vest.
  • USACE contractors are using dust reduction methods that have been derived from lessons-learned from multiple successfully executed debris removal events from the past few years.
  • Residents concerned about the long-term health risks due to the fires are encouraged to contact the Hawai‘i State Department of Health.

King Kamehameha III Elementary School

  • We received a FEMA mission assignment Sept. 13, 2023, to support the State of Hawai‘i and the Hawai‘i Department of Education to design and oversee installation of a temporary elementary school campus for the Lahaina community.
  • Installation of the temporary school in West Maui began Nov. 20, 2023.
  • USACE and our partners installed the temporary King Kamehameha III Elementary School in 95 days, and the school reopened to approximately 350 students April 1.
  • USACE placed all 336 modular units that make up 38 buildings, to include 30 air-conditioned classrooms. The additional buildings include restrooms, a dining room, community space, administrative space, a learning resources space and more.
  • We learned of a water quality concerns April 5 and had staff onsite the following morning. With the help of FEMA, EPA, and Maui County, we identified that the concern was due to stagnant water not cycling through the system.
  • The water was stagnating because the system was designed for roughly 600 students as opposed to the 350 currently enrolled. To rectify the situation, USACE installed new flushing valves the weekend of April 27-28, 2024.
  • The water was tested for a variety of concerns to include e-coli and coliform using what is known as a Bac-T test. This test was conducted several times and results continued to be negative. Further, it was tested for other compounds such as paints, cleaners and pesticides with a water test that is often referred to as a VOC and SVOC test. Again, the results were negative and meets all Hawai‘i water quality standards.
  • The water was again tested after the installation of the new flushing values, and the results were negative and meet all Hawai‘i water quality standards.
  • USACE has a small number of punch list items left on the school and will continue working on these items after the school year ends.
  • USACE is continuing to work with the Hawai‘i Department of Education to ensure the health and welfare of the students.

HELPFUL MEDIA SPEAKING TIPS

  • You are always on the record, and it is quite possible you will be recorded.
     
  • Do not share classified or sensitive information.
    • Response = command message + talking point ​NOTE: Command messages assert the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers position, talking points provide facts.
       
  • Stay in your lane: Speak only about the things you have the authority and knowledge to address; provide PAO contact information if outside your lane.
     
  • Do not say “no comment.”
     
  • Avoid jargon: Speak plainly and avoid acronyms.
     
  • Stick to the facts and, if possible, correct factual errors.
     
  • It’s okay to ask to “start over.”
     
  • It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.”
    • Wrong info is worse - don’t speculate. Offer to connect them with PAO, so they can get back to the reporter with the information they are seeking.