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Case Testifies in Support of Critical Water Projects for Hawai‘i

Washington, February 27, 2020

Written Testimony of Representative Ed Case (HI-01)
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment  

Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Graves, Members of the Committee:  

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts on water resources development priorities that are important to both our nation and my home state of Hawai‘i. 

With our unique reliance on ocean shipping as an island state and the growing challenges of climate change through coastal erosion and flooding, Hawai‘i needs our assistance now more than ever. Hawai‘i needs U.S. Army Corps of Engineers assistance more than ever. I would like to highlight a few new studies and projects that are critical to protecting our economic lifeline to the world and vulnerable communities. 

The Island of O‘ahu, where 70% of Hawaii’s population live and where our nation’s Indo-Pacific defense infrastructure is centered, has two critical ports. As the main port of Hawai‘i, Honolulu Harbor receives and distributes all overseas cargo shipments constituting over 80% of all imports into the state, supports fishing operations and cruise ships and handles federal maritime activity including the U.S. Coast Guard’s 14th District. The harbor, though, is in need of critical improvements. These modifications will improve transportation efficiency and lessen the impact of cross channel currents and we ask for your support. 

Kalaeloa Barbers Point Harbor is equally important to Hawai‘i as it specializes in dry-bulk and liquid-bulk cargos and provides space for ship maintenance and repair services that cannot fit in Honolulu Harbor. With increased congestion causing berthing conflicts between dry- and liquid-bulk shipments, the harbor facilities must be expanded and we ask for your support. 

My state is also experiencing increased flooding from severe storms that place lives and property at extreme risk. For example, in April 2018 the Islands of O’ahu and Kaua‘i were struck by heavy rains and wind (Kaua’i received some 50 inches of rain in a single day), causing massive flooding with related landslides, and leaving victims stranded, damaged or destroyed hundreds of houses and caused millions of dollars in damage. These risks will likely continue to as we see increased hurricane activity in the Pacific and other weather changes.

This is why I am seeking your support for the Wailupe Flood Risk Management Study, a “new start” critical to protecting the particularly exposed Aina Haina community in East Honolulu from flooding of Wailupe Stream. A 100-year flood of that stream would not only risk lives and widespread residential and commercial property damage, but would sever Kalaniana‘ole Highway which is main and only artery around the island. 

Finally, accelerating coastal erosion is taking a mounting toll on the economy and infrastructure of Hawai‘i and other coastal states. In addition to widespread property destruction, Hawaii’s economy relies heavily on tourism and beaches, so shoreline erosion is additionally a direct threat to our main livelihood. These is a critical need overall for new studies and projects to mitigate these risks

Thank you very much for your time and for your full consideration of these proposed studies and projects to address critical Hawaii concerns as this committee reauthorizes the Water Resources Development Act.

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