Honolulu Council Begging for Sea Level Rise Lawsuits

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Friday, June 21st, 2013

By Kioni Dudley 06/20/2013

Civil Beat/RJ Brown

Last week New York City’s mayor announced that the city is spending $20 billion to protect against sea level rise. To our great peril, our city and county government, on an island surrounded by the sea, refuses to acknowledge that there is even a problem — it being a far more important mission to clear the way for more development.

Last Saturday, people lined up all night to sign up for apartments in The Symphony, a new high rise across the NBC arena. As the accompanying map shows, in a few decades that land will be under water due to groundwater inundation — the rise of groundwater (which floats on seawater) being pushed up through the surface by sea level rise.

The City Planning Commission is considering approval of a high rise for the YMCA property on Atkinson, which will be deep in the flooded area.

Plans move ahead for high-rises in Kaka’ako and Waikiki.

When the groundwater flooding begins, whom will these people blame for allowing them to build there? Whom will they sue? Taxpayers will pay for the lawsuits against the city.

On Friday, the Rail put out word that it is moving to four-car trains. Why aren’t they admitting that groundwater inundation has made folly of the whole project? Passengers will need boats to reach the last four stations. The route from downtown to the floating island, Ala Moana Center, will all be under water. The path of the train, its destination, perhaps its whole purpose may have to be completely revamped. Perhaps the Rail project will be dropped entirely.

In Pearlridge, five towers are in advanced planning — classic Transit Oriented Development — with the train station as the focal point. Groundwater inundation has not yet been studied for the area, but sea level rise alone will push Pearl Harbor water over its path to the stadium.

None of our county plans incorporate any of the new research on groundwater inundation which will flood much of Kaka’ako, Ala Moana, Waikiki, and Mo’ili’ili..and other low-lying areas of the island. (Read the study by UH professors Kolja Rotzoll and Chip Fletcher.)

Much of the ‘Ewa Development Plan(EDP), which is currently before the City Council for approval, centers around the Rail and the Ho’opili development. New Ho’opili literature features two major Transit Oriented Developments centered around Rail stations. If the rail is scuttled, the city will be in a position of encouraging investment in and development of projects based on these plans, with full knowledge that groundwater inundation could well undermine it all.

When people want to sue the city, they will have the 2012 Act 286 to support their cases. That law states that county plans must study the impacts of climate change and ways to protect the people from them. Passing development plans and sustainability plans at this time, when the scientific studies on groundwater inundation have already been published, and news-media articles on groundwater-rise have warned the council against doing so, invites lawsuits. It is irresponsible, and actually, a crime against the people.

The EDP has one more Zoning and Planning meeting on June 27th, then approval by the full council at their July 10 meeting will confirm it as the law.

It must be noted that, although a watery future awaits much of low-lying ‘Ewa, the ‘Ewa Development Plan will wreck the lives of Leeward residents long before then. In its current form, it will extend the peak hour freeway commute to two hours each way. It will put houses on 31 percent of the Oahu farmland currently producing fresh fruits and vegetables for our markets and restaurants. And it will exhaust our fresh supply of water, forcing us into desalination…just to mention a few things.

An in depth discussion of these problems with the ‘Ewa Development Plan will take place at a Town Hall Meeting from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 25, at Kapolei High School cafeteria. The public is invited. The meeting can also be viewed live on ‘Olelo channel 54.

Inundation at MHHW under sea-level rise in the Honolulu caprock aquifer, Oahu, Hawaii:

About the author: Dr. Kioni Dudley is the president of the Friends of Makakilo, and chairman of Save O’ahu Farmlands, and is a retired educator.

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