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Breakwater study results expected to be released in fall

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has completed a study of whether potential alterations to the Hilo Bay breakwater would improve water quality in the bay.

Construction of the breakwater began in 1908 in order to shield ships from rough seas. However, the structure also is believed to be inhibiting water circulation in the bay, trapping sediment and other contaminants from the Wailuku and Wailoa rivers.

For years, Hawaii County officials have sought an exploratory study into whether opening a hole in the century-old breakwater would improve the circulation of water in the bay.

One study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2009 found that such a breach would improve conditions, but was inconclusive about the extent of that improvement. A second study was necessary to determine how much a breach would improve the bay.

Earlier this year, that study was finally conducted, although the results have yet to be revealed.

Minerva Anderson, chief of public affairs with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Honolulu District, said the technical report generated from the study is expected to be completed this fall. Once released, the report will be used as “a tool for the county and the state to make planning decisions to improve quality of life for the Hilo community.”

Cyrus Johnasen, spokesman for Mayor Mitch Roth, said the study was carried out between January and April of this year. The study cost $100,000, with USACE contributing $50,000 and the remaining $50,000 split evenly between Hawaii County and the state Department of Transportation.

The project was a priority for former Mayor Harry Kim, who repeatedly said the study could potentially revitalize Hilo’s economy if the end result is better water quality in the bay.

The 2009 study was released shortly after Kim left office for the first time and languished until midway through his second tenure as mayor.

Johnasen said the project also is a priority for the Roth administration, adding that Roth is eager to learn the results of the study and make improvements to the bay.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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