VIEWPOINT by MIKE VICTORINO
Published in The Maui News, Oct. 9, 2016
I commend our first responders for ensuring no lives were lost from the massive Wailuku River flood on the evening of Sept. 13.
I am grateful for the swift action and collaboration among different government entities that have ensured public safety up to this day.
During a three-day rainfall, Maui received 15 inches of rain. This translated to 3 billion gallons of water that flowed through Wailuku River — 30 times its normal volume.
The landscape of the river has grown wider by about 100 feet, and state and county parks in Iao Valley have been closed for safety reasons. Homes have been damaged.
In this extreme-weather event, described by Gov. David Ige as perhaps a 500-year flood, residents in the Iao Valley were rescued and evacuated by our public-safety professionals. Now, extensive cleanup and recovery work remains, which will take years to complete and require funding and collaboration among all levels of government.
Officials from the Department of Parks and Recreation estimated damage for Kepaniwai Park at $2.2 million. The county’s landfill has been inundated with all kinds of waste and debris, with collection coordinated by the Department of Environmental Management. The Department of Water Supply has promptly responded to infrastructure damage as well.
As the council member holding the seat for the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu residency area, I’ve been closely monitoring the work that’s already begun and meeting with residents and officials. Long-term solutions for public safety and environmental protection in the area will require robust data gathering, patience and diligence.
In addition to efforts by state and federal agencies, I especially commend the Department of Public Works and Civil Defense Agency for helping to mobilize private companies with trucks to help clear debris.
On a personal level, I’m concerned because the flood victims are my neighbors. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the council to ensure sufficient funding and other forms of support are provided for the operations.
As I say every budget session, extra funds dedicated for a rainy day such as this one are always important. It is time to use that money to help rebuild.
I want to thank the mayor for granting my request to have police presence in the area. The popular parks in Iao Valley will continue to draw residents and visitors, and we need to restrict access to the area until it’s safe for the public.
For the community, there are a few ways to help.
First, let’s stay out of the way. Heavy equipment is present and the ground is still unsettled.
Second, if you’ve been affected by the flooding, I urge you to answer a few questions on the county website at mauicounty.gov under the “Emergency Preparedness” link. Submit information using the “Report Storm Related Damages” form.
Information you provide will help officials draw a more accurate picture of the effects of the flood and possibly assist in applying for state and federal aid.
An emergency helped us unite to get things done, but collaboration should continue even after this event.
The river will never be the same. This is its new, natural state, and we will need to adjust.
We must be patient as we let the rebuilding begin.
* Mike Victorino is the presiding officer pro tempore of the Maui County Council and chair of the council’s Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. He holds the council seat for the Wailuku-Waihee-Waikapu residency area.