Hakalaoa Falls Emergency Bypass tunneling project named finalist for Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement award

April 15, 2004
The Hakalaoa Falls Emergency Bypass Water Tunnel on the Island of Hamakua, Hawaii was selected as one of seven finalists for a civili engineering award.

Washington, D.C., April 15, 2004 -- The Hakalaoa Falls Emergency Bypass Water Tunnel on the Island of Hamakua, Hawaii, an engineering marvel that repaired a 15-year-old tunnel collapse, returning a steady water supply to local farmers, was selected as one of seven finalists for the 2004 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) Award by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The OCEA winner will be announced at the fifth annual Outstanding Projects and Leaders (OPAL) Awards gala dinner in Tysons Corner, Va., at the Sheraton Premier on Wednesday, May 12.

In 1989, a catastrophic landslide collapsed a 30-foot section of the 90-year-old Lower Hamakua Ditch water system, first constructed to supply water to the local sugar cane farmers. A temporary 25-foot wooden flume was built across the collapsed tunnel to restore flow to the 24-mile long water system, but rocks loosened by the landslide continued to plague the emergency flume.

Ultimately, the water was diverted above the Hakalaoa Falls, costing local farmers $11 million and doing significant damage to the Waipio Valley ecosystem. In 2001, the state of Hawaii decided to restore water to both the farmers and the ecosystem, selecting the design/build team Jas. W. Glover Ltd./URS Corporation to construct an emergency bypass tunnel. The tunnel was completed in April of 2002, and is hailed as only the second stream restoration in the state's history.

"This project is an incredible example of how unique challenges can be overcome by civil engineering," said ASCE President Patricia Galloway, P.E., F.ASCE, PMP. "Not only was the agricultural community's need for an irrigation system restored, but the ecosystem and treasured twin falls were not compromised, which is what makes the project an engineering marvel."

The project's location at mid-height on the 2,000-foot Hakalaoa Falls offered the team multiple challenges, including the on-going danger of the further cliff face collapse and highly restrictive access to the project site. In addition, engineers were faced with a limited budget, shortened time frame and public outcry for immediate restoration of the water supply.

The team's solution, a 300-foot long, 7-foot in diameter, hand-mined, liner plate supported bypass tunnel, was built without the use of tunneling machines and drilling robots. The team was allowed to shut down the system for only one day to perform a site investigation, and the geologic deductions were done by extrapolating conditions observed on the face of the cliff by helicopter and geological mapping from inside the tunnel.

Due to restrictions on disposal of excess materials into the sacred Waipio Valley, 1,000 tons of excavated rock had to be hauled out from the site through an existing two-mile long tunnel, in addition to the 300 tons of new construction materials that had to be brought in. For safety reasons, speed in the tunnel was limited to five miles per hour, thus requiring an hour-long round-trip.

With over 1,300 tons of materials to haul at one half ton per load, and a distance of two miles one way, cumulative distance for all materials amounted to over 5,200 miles, farther than a round-trip from San Francisco to D.C. Despite the emergency tunneling project's many challenges, it was completed on schedule, within its $2.7 million budget, without claims and with no discernable impact on the environment, costing $17 million less than building a new tunnel.

Other 2004 OCEA finalists include the William H. Natcher Bridge which spans the Ohio River from Owensboro, Ky. to Rockport, Ind.; the Integrated Water Transmission and Treatment Project in Clark County, Nevada; the Downtown Restoration Program's Temporary WTC PATH Station in New York City; the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge in Boston; the New Braddock Dam in Braddock, Penn.; and the repaving of 389 km of war torn roads in 230 days in Kabul-Kandahar, Afghanistan. The seven finalists were selected from 24 nominations.

The OCEA program was established in 1960 by the American Society of Civil Engineers. OCEA winners, which have included the relocation of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the World Trade Center Towers, are selected on the basis of their contribution to the well-being of people and communities, resourcefulness in planning and design challenges, and innovations in materials and techniques.

The OPAL awards honor outstanding projects and professional civil engineers for lifelong contributions in five categories - public works, construction, management, design and education. The OPAL awards were inaugurated in April 2000.

Founded in 1852, ASCE represents more than 133,000 civil engineers worldwide and is the nation's oldest engineering society. ASCE celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2002.

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