FAQ on the “Ho’okuleana Design” ©2016, 2017

As the Ala Wai problem becomes worse over time, we increasingly are forced to connect issues such as invasive species, flooding, and rising seas, together. Then we develop an interconnected solution.

All other solutions do not take into reality the existing development, the reality that Albizia trees do not absorb much water, and the reality that there are complicated socio-economic factors at work.

Still, based on the present development situation in the Ala Wai Watershed, there is only one viable solution, and the Ho’okuleana Design points towards that solution. All other solutions do not take into reality the existing development, the reality that Albizia trees do not absorb much water, and the reality that there are complicated socio-economic factors at work in the Ala Wai Watershed.

Thus, the solution is complex, and its execution and implementation are complicated. Therefore, to dissect the solution of the Ala Wai problem via the Ho’okuleana Design, the following “Frequently Asked Questions” is for some of you that don’t want to read a lengthy report, but you still want to understand key points and get some questions answered quickly. Therefore, the questions may seem random because they are, so here it goes.

What is the primary goal of the “Ala Wai Watershed Resource Study Report” and the “Ho’okuleana Design”?

To solve the overarching problems of the respective stakeholders mentioned in the below link:

              Frequently Asked Questions on the Ala Wai Problem

The problems include the following:

  • Conserve lands in the Ala Wai Watershed
  • Save Waikiki properties from the detrimental effects of the rising seas
  • Protect Waikiki from hazardous flooding that would trigger emergency services

Also, because the City and County of Honolulu and the State of Hawaii do not have sufficient tools to deal with the Ala Wai problem, as it would have been solved by now; instead, other means and methods must be used.

For example, Ho’okuleana Design would be part of a larger issue to be taken to the national level of the United States.

Please see a short video below of a sampling of the Ho’okuleana Design.

Why do you propose to grow taro along the Ala Wai Canal? 

In the video below, Daniel Anthony of “Mana Ai,” a company that supplies “poi,” a traditional Hawaiian food, explains the history and politics of taro in Hawaii, and how you can change the modern-day role of taro! Therefore, it is time to elevate the importance and function of “kalo” in the Hawaiian Islands, whether through modern or ancient methods!

How will the taro be grown?

Regarding any proposal in the Waikiki area, which harks back to an earlier period, it is unrealistic to physically return Waikiki to the original fishponds and lo’i kalo or taro patches that once existed on the same spot hundreds of years ago.  

Instead, it is time to bring modern innovation to the traditional fishpond and taro patch and still get “lepo” or get dirty, which means “to be dirty as a result of interaction with soil.” 

Below. A display of an innovative system: aquaponics at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa, which is what can be used in the Ho’okuleana Design. 

Why do you suggest a lock and dam? Won’t conservation measures do the job?

One must not minimize the historical importance of why human societies, time and time again, were successful engineers and controlled water levels for their very survival and prosperity.

It has been argued that one way to solve the problems of the Ala Wai Canal is via a natural solution, so one says, “let’s stick with a natural method of solving the Ala Wai.” Note: natural methods mean “the use of vegetation,” versus man-made methods which mean the use of concrete structures.

While I do agree with the necessary natural solutions, as in the removal of invasive species and conservation measures; however, because the Ala Wai Canal is man-made, it poses some unique problems that go beyond just natural solutions.

For example, it is unrealistic to return many modern-day Waikiki properties, such as hotels, shopping malls, restaurants, condominium complexes, to taro patches and fishponds as the real estate in Waikiki is prohibitive to revert these properties to pure farmland. Therefore, it is unrealistic to use solely a natural way to solve the problems of the Ala Wai Canal.

Therefore, one must not minimize the historical importance of why human societies, time and time again, were successful engineers and controlled water levels for their very survival and prosperity. Once again, a civilization’s survival and prosperity depend on the dependable supply of water!

Look no further than the United States Army Corps of Engineers, whose primary purpose is to manage critical lifesaving resources by the construction of concrete structures.

To be acquainted with locks, dams, and fish ladders, I made a trip to visit “Bonneville Lock & Dam” in Oregon. “Bonneville Lock & Dam,” is an exemplary example of how a dam can control the flow of water, such as flooding, and generate electricity.  Below are pictures of my trip.

Above. Arrival into the Portland International Airport. One can walk 200 feet from the baggage claim and right onto its metro or light rail system.


Above. I am on Portland’s light rail system.


Above. In front of the “Bradford Island Visitor Center” at “Bonneville Lock & Dam.”


Above. Inside the powerhouse of the “Bonneville Lock & Dam.”


Above. In front of the fish ladder at the “Bonneville Lock & Dam.”


Above. On the train from Oregon to Northern California.


Above. I snack on instant noodles during the comfortable and scenic train ride.


Above. I am at the “Oregon Rail Heritage Center” in Portland.

So, yes, for the survival and prosperity of Waikiki properties, a lock and dam are proposed in the Ho’okuleana Design

What will a lock and dam do for the Ala Wai Canal and Waikiki?

A lock and dam will stabilize water levels and thus would prepare the Ala Wai Canal, its new tributaries, and Waikiki for an economy based on trade via water.

For example, the people who “mālama,” or care for the aquaponics farming along the Ala Wai Canal, have the option to travel via canoe. See the below video as an example of short distance canoe travel.

Is the Ala Wai Canal your main concern? What are your priorities for the Ala Wai Watershed?

Regarding environmental problems, places such as Mākaha, and the North Shore of Oahu have erosion or flooding problems, so does Waikiki Beach, as evidenced by a seawall shown in the below video. Note: not good publicity for Waikiki tourism, the seawall is not widely known.

At one time, one could walk along the shore from Fort DeRussey Beach to Kuhio Beach. Now, most of the time, one cannot do so. For example, if you go to Waikiki Beach, one resort elevated their patio and made a seawall, which is a foretelling of the future of seawalls along Waikiki.

When we start to prioritize Oahu’s problems and solve the longstanding issues of Waikiki and the Ala Wai Watershed by the implementation of the Ho’okuleana Design, we also solve the problems of Hawaii, as Waikiki, the breadbasket of Hawaii, and thus Oahu, are inextricably linked to the rest of Hawaii.

Did you make any considerations for those with disabilities?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which was landmark federal legislation, made it possible for people with disabilities to gain access to many buildings in the United States. Also, the Act intended to offer employment comparable to employment of those without physical challenges.  

Therefore, the social justice aspect of the Ala Wai Watershed Special Resource Study Report and the Ho’okuleana Design, is very much considered.  

Therefore, since the above are new proposals, it is in the interest of those with disabilities and their advocates, to advocate for the rights of the disabled.

Why Have a New “Heiau”?

I will not go into extensive detail about the design of a new “heiau,” an ancient Hawaiian site of religious worship, as it is not a casual topic of discussion. However, perhaps the below video starting at minute 2:46 about a “heiau” that includes Keali’i Reichel, a “kumu hula,” or master teacher of hula, and a respected elder in Tahiti will elucidate on the topic of “heiaus” in general.

Regardless, let us take three approaches to the topic of “heiaus”: historical, religious, and cultural. And from any one of these approaches, let alone three, the design of a new “heiau” is worthy of consideration.

“Why?” You may ask.

Historically, religiously, and culturally, a “heiau” accompanied a taro patch, or in other words, a “heiau” is vital for the ancient Hawaiians and modern Hawaiians, if they choose, to honor and give thanks to Lono, for a bountiful harvest. To not have a “heiau” and to be able to subsist from the land would be unacceptable. So, yes, I would argue it is unacceptable to have an extensive system of taro patches and not a “heiau” commensurate with those taro patches!

For the sake of propriety and sacredness, I do not feel I am qualified to say more about this topic. Still, I have allowed a physical space to be allotted for a “heiau,” so it can exist along the Ala Wai Canal.

What is next?

Hopefully, now you have an idea of what is the superior solution to the Ala Wai problem which is the Ho’okuleana Design. The answers are complex, and you have viewed the main parts of the solution. Browse further and act!

Related Links:

Ho’okuleana Design ©2016, 2017

Ala Watershed Special Resource Study Report

​Friends of Waikīkī National Recreation Area

Other Links That May Interest You:

In Honolulu: the Dreaded Bathroom Situation

What Is It With the People Who End Up on the Streets?


A Chinese American, Emy Louie (雷慧妮) was born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu, Hawai’i. She graduated from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in 1991 and earned a degree in Architecture.

In 1993, Ms. Louie relocated to the mainland United States and from 2007 to 2012, she hosted her radio show to interview the movers and shakers of sustainable design and green building and taught continuing education classes to design professionals.

She is author of “2021 Concise Budget Traveler’s Guide to Playa del Carmen, Mexico,” and president of Emy Louie, Consulting Services, which works on design, conservation, and environmental projects. Since 2018, Ms. Louie spends her time in Honolulu and Central America to do environmental field research.

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