Residents, city keep close eye on already high water levels in Lake Wilson

Lake Wilson

One area of concern as Hurricane Lester approaches is Lake Wilson.

Officials are already monitoring the level, which they say is higher than normal.

There is a spillway that’s supposed to prevent the lake from overflowing, but it could still happen depending on how much rain we get.

“We’re monitoring it very carefully,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “We’re working with (the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources) and the private sector to make sure that the water level is such that we don’t need to worry, and should there be a need, we will take action regarding Lake Wilson.”

Dole Food Co., which owns and operates Lake Wilson, tells us on average, the lake is anywhere from 65 to 70 feet. As of Friday morning, it was at 78.5 feet. When it reaches 80 feet, it will start discharging water into the spillway.

Residents of Otake Camp in Waialua are keeping a close eye on this. They say the ground out by a pole in the water is dry when Lake Wilson is at its normal level, but lately that area has been sitting underwater.

“It’s kind of scary because it’s only this far from my front porch,” said Lisa Walker, who lives just a few feet away from the stream in Otake Camp.

In past years, that stream became inundated with rain and overflow from Lake Wilson. She’s keeping her eyes and ears fixed to the stream as the storm approaches.

“Will you sleep well this weekend?” KHON2 asked.

“As long as I hear (the low murmur from the stream), I’m fine. If it starts getting louder, then I won’t sleep as good, because I can tell when it gets higher. Then all the bushes start going down, and then I know it can happen like that,” said Walker.

Residents say the last time the area got flooded, the water got up to the top stair right by their door, but never got inside. Residents are hoping that the next flood doesn’t get any worse.

“I’m lucky enough to be here where I can keep a close eye on it, and if I need to call my neighbors, I can call them and let them know I know it can come fast,” said Walker.

Daniel Nellis, Dole Food Co. Hawaii general manager, sent the following statement:

The spillway begins discharging water from the lake after the lake level reaches 80 ft. The crest of the dam is 88 ft. The spillway is in place to reduce the chance of the lake ever reaching 88ft level. It has never been higher than 84 ft to my knowledge. The lake and the dam while built for irrigation water storage, do serve as flood control devices up to the point where water discharges on the spillway. Without the dam every flash flood warning level rain event would result in flooding on the Kaukonahua Stream.

The lake is at 78.5 ft as of the time of the press conference today and currently declining. When the water goes over the spillway and it is raining heavily in the lower Kaukonahua watershed (Waialua mountains) there is likely to be some flooding downstream. Water discharging from the spillway in absence of heavy rainfall in Waialua usually does not result in flooding. Those residents living streamside are most prone to flooding events.

Our operational action to prevent flooding is to discharge from our outlet works to try to maintain the lake level around 65 ft. The outlets have been maximum open since June but continuous summer rain has caused lake levels to rise even with the outlet at maximum open. We will continue to operate at maximum discharge until we have lowered the lake level to 65ft.

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