Unbeknownst to most of the public, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands manages four water systems throughout the state, delivering potable and non-potable water to residential and agricultural homesteads.
The Hoʻolehua Water System on Molokaʻi is the Department’s oldest system, serving over 2,400 customers, including approximately 500 homesteads in Hoʻolehua-Palaʻau, Kalamaʻula, and Moʻomomi. Water from this system also provides service to the post office, schools, and the Molokaʻi airport.
At over 80 years old, the entire system is in desperate need of repair and significant upgrades to improve its efficiency, water pressure, and service to customers.
On Thursday, November 19, the Department held a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of a $37 million capital improvement project to upgrade the aging infrastructure.
The socially distanced event was attended by State Representative Lynn DeCoite (Dist. 13 – Molokaʻi), Hawaiian Homes Commission (HHC) Chairman William J. Ailā, Jr., HHC Molokaʻi Commissioner Zachary Helm, and the United States Department of Agriculture Community Program Loan Specialist Nate Riedel.
Kahu Claude Duvauchelle led the blessing, held at DHHL’s equipment base yard, where contractor Goodfellow Brothers, managed by SSFM International, is staging construction equipment to begin the work.
The project, funded in part by a $19 million allocation from the USDA, will be built in two phases spanning seven construction sites.
Enhancements to the system will include the installation of a 200,000-gallon storage tank, upgrades to automation systems, a new warehouse, and a new emergency generator diesel fuel tank. Other improvements involve new paved roads and fencing, along with the repair and replacement of existing tanks, pumps, transmission mains, laterals, valves, and hydrants.
At the ceremony, Chair Ailā commented that the project highlights the state and congressional leadership’s understanding of important issues facing our rural communities, as this project would not be possible without their initiative.
Construction is expected to take roughly two years to complete and customers should expect intermittent water outages and construction traffic during regular business hours throughout the project’s duration.
In the end, DHHL’s oldest water system, serving some of the Department’s oldest homesteads, will arrive in the 21st century with an efficient system built to last another 80 years and more.
Cedric R. Duarte is the Information & Community Relations Officer for the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. He has worked in communications and marketing since 1999 and is a longtime event organizer. A product of the Kamehameha Schools and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, he resides in ʻAiea with his wife and two daughters.