2014 Copyright ASCE Hawaii Section

January 2006:  DROUTHS AND FRESHETS

By: C. S. Papacostas


​“Some stories have legs,” I vaguely recall our college newspaper advisor admonishing us, the staff of “The Jambar,” many a year ago. Besides having legs, the whirling story of the Dam at Nu`uanu reservoir No. 4 is sporting running shoes as well!


But first, a short explanation about the assignment of “No. 4”. In my opinion, it properly refers to the reservoir rather than to the water-impounding dam. How else can we explain Reservoir No. 5 which the October 23, 1955 issue of the Honolulu Advertiser (HA) describes as a “2,700,000-gallon concrete tank,” built 33 years earlier, “on the ewa side of Nuuanu Ave. near the noted poinsetta [sic] hedge?”


Yet, both in the popular press and in technical documents, the numeral is often associated with the dam itself. The title of a 1931 report to the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS) by J. B. Lippincott, for example, refers to Dam No. 4, as do a 1941 study by C. K. Wentworth, a 1965 study by L. J. Watson, a 1982 report by the U. S. Corps of Engineers, the 1993 Hirata inspection report I quoted last month (December 2005), and many editions of the “Hawaii Data Book,” among others.


The subject dam was to be a public project supplying domestic water, especially during cycles of drought (or drouth, as the then oftenused alternate spelling goes), and, by turns, for flood protection from devastating freshets.


In time, the dam played other roles, including fire fighting, dust palliating, sanitation, electric power production, and recreational fishing.

But, first things first. Serving as the director of public relations for the BWS, newspaperman George F. Nellist published his history of “Honolulu’s Modern Water System” in three installments that appeared in the HA respectively in 1948, 1952 and 1955. Although “the exact date ... is lost in the mist of unrecorded early history,” he sets March 31, 1848 as the inauguration of “the first unit of a water system in Honolulu, installed, paid for, and operated by the government.” On that day, Interior Minister John Young (a.k.a. Keoni Ana) reported to King Kamehameha III and the Hawaii Legislature that “during the past year, a Harbor Master and Pilot’s office has been erected ... near the wharves. A water tank, for the convenience of shipping, is placed in the basement story of this building. The water is supplied, through a leaden pipe from the Reservoir on the Northeast side of the town.” Nellist then quotes a story in Thrum’s Hawaiian Almanac and Annual for 1889, which I traced and verified. Under the title “First Water Pipe for Honolulu,” Thrum says in part:


“During a visit of Mr. P. A. Brinsmade, of the firm of Ladd & Co., of this place, to Boston Mass., in 1838, through a representation by him that the King was desirous to bring water in from a considerable distance for the purpose of supplying vessels at Honolulu, Messrs. Proctor & Felt were induced to consign to Ladd & Co. fourteen reels of lead pipe... of inch and half-inch size... but during the celebrated arbitration... the matter was suspended but renewed again in the summer of 1847, resulting in its disposal in September of that year, for temporary use till iron piping could be obtained, and was laid to convey water from a taro patch back of the French Consul’s (at that time) to the Harbor Master’s office, at the foot of Nuuanu street.”


As for an early description of the flooding problem, this is what the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (PCA) of February 24, 1859 had to say:

“The third freshet of the season in the Nuuanu stream occurred last Sunday night... The temporary bridge at the foot of Beretania Street known as Smith’s bridge was again swept away, making the third time that communication has been interrupted at that point.” By then, the Kingdom was taking charge of its public water works, to wit, Sec. 191 of the Civil Code provided that “the Minister of the Interior shall have a general charge of the pipes or conduits of water to supply the town and harbor of Honolulu.” This included system maintenance and the setting and collecting of “water rates from ships and persons in Honolulu, or its vicinity...”


Interestingly, on November 17 of the same year, the PCA warned that “housekeepers and others having charge of water faucets, should avoid wasting water during the shipping season,” as there was enough supply “for all, if care is taken to prevent waste...”

And the beat goes on.


February 2006:  CREEPING UP THE VALLEY

By: C. S. Papacostas

An often-reproduced drawing by Paul Emmert titled “No. 2. View of Honolulu, From the Catholic Church,” that was lithographed in 1854 by Britton & Rey of San Francisco, captured what the artist saw looking toward Diamond Head (Mount Leahi) from the top of Fort Street.

Among the town houses in the vicinity of Beretania and Punchbowl Streets, above Kawaiahao Church and the original Palace (with cupola), a windmill is cleary visible. A windmill also caught the attention of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (PCA) on October 8, 1859 as it noticed “at Hall’s one of the improved patent adjusting windmills” and that “in California there are hundreds of them to be seen in every town.”

For its water supply, mid-nineteenth century Honolulu, extending around the harbor and into Nu`uanu Valley, relied on springs, streams and shallow wells.


T. F. Sedgwick, Statistician, to whom a 1913 “History of the Honolulu Water Works,” is attributed, traces the beginnings of the government water works system to the same origins I discussed last month (January 2006). He then goes on to inform us that by 1851 a four-inch iron main from “a small masonry reservoir in the vicinity of what is now Bates street... down Nuuanu avenue” supplied vessels in port. Moreover, “in the town, all who could, connected with it.” Thus, by happenstance, and excluding privately owned water that was not offered for sale to the general public, “the problem of furnishing Honolulu with water fell to the Government rather than to private enterprise.”


Consistently, Section 191 of the Civil Code of the Hawaiian Islands provided, among other things, that “The Minister of the Interior shall have the general charge of the pipes or conduits of water to supply the town and harbor of Honolulu. He may, from time to time, regulate the rates of supply to ships, and to parties on shore, and establish all such rules as may be needful for the public interests.”


A system expansion plan, drawn by William Webster (Engineer) was described by him to the Kingdom’s Minister of the Interior in a letter dated “30 of June, 1854” which the Minister incorporated in his 1855 report to the Legislative Assembly. Webster determined that “from bad foundations and other causes, the present reservoir leaks nearly as much as the whole present supply,” and recommended against repair as it was too small to meet anticipated demand and “from being situated so near the Nuuanu road, it forms a receptacle for dust and dirt.”

Instead, he proposed a new facility, “100 feet by 80 feet clear at the bottom by 10 feet deep” to be located close to “a spring about 200 yards above the [present] reservoir” which served as the source of the supply at the time. Webster’s complete plan, costing $68,000 by his estimate, also included “a pipe from the spring named Kapena down to the site of the proposed 511,250-gallon reservoir,” and a distribution network to Queen Street and town.


This plan, says Sedgwick, was implemented in 1860-61 under Webster’s direct supervision with the new reservoir “situated at Kahookane below Judd street, and between Nuuanu Avenue and Nuuanu Stream, and was so well constructed that it was doing service up to 1895.” Sedgwick’s “History,” by the way, contains a copy of Webster’s 1861 plan showing the pipe alignment and land ownership between the reservoir and Kapena Falls.


The decades following the construction of Webster’s plan involved a series of very significant events relating to private and public water rights and other legal issues, but little physical development. Also, the drilling of the first artesian well at Honouliuli in 1879 and one in Honolulu proper in 1880 had little immediate impact on the public water supply system inventory.


During this time frame, according to Sedgwick, “the [original] Makiki reservoir of masonry, holding 750,000 gallons was built” to accommodate the population growth there, and “a reservoir was also built in Nuuanu Valley, on the Queen Emma property,” farther up the valley than the place where Webster built his.


​Official attention was, so to speak, creeping up the valley!


<To be continued>


April 2006:  “SLICKENS” BENDER’S ARRIVAL

By: C. S. Papacostas

In July 2003 I described the progressive 1880 “study abroad program” that King Kalakaua initiated for young Hawaiians. Supporting this program in the face of opposition, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (PCA) argued on September 2, 1882 that the recipients of the King’s scholarships “will return to these Islands and exercise the knowledge they have attained for the benefit of their country.” Examples included the fact that “our harbors and Islands want surveying - roads projected and opened, and qualified inspectors (who require technical knowledge of engineering) to look to the safety of our public railroads and other works.”


The PCA then brought up the fact that “long ago a civil engineer of ability pointed out a place in Nuuanu Valley where a reservoir of large area could be secured by the construction of a comparatively small and inexpensive dam.” This is the earliest reference I’ve come across to a Hawaii government dam, an antecedent, I suppose, to the Dam at Reservoir No. 4 in Nu`uanu Valley.


As I explained in February 2006, the publicly-owned water supply system of the Honolulu District consisted of a surface water gravity system employing masonry reservoirs in Makiki and Nu`uanu.


Artesian wells constituted an emerging alternate source that had its advocates during the early 1880s. Many touted this source as being capable of providing pure water that did not need boiling or filtering. Its major drawbacks were a lack of knowledge regarding its extent and the fact that the available wells attested to a pressure head of about 42 feet above sea level. Supply of areas located at higher elevations would require expensive pumping.


Judge McCully was one of a group of land owners who pooled their resources to bring “Mr. Peirce, a well borer” from California to drill for artesian water on their properties in Honolulu proper, the first of these being bored in 1880 at the property of Mr. Augustus Marques “a gentleman not long resident in the kingdom, who had built his house on the dry flat land at the mouth of Manoa Valley.” This was the “pioneer well” I described in October 1996.


Interestingly, the Judge’s account, titled “Artesian Wells” and written for Thrum’s “Hawaiian Almanac and Annual” for 1882, begins by asserting that “the weight of scientific opinion was that [artesian water] could not be obtained, as the Islands were supposed to be constituted geologically... permitting the escape of subterraneous water into the bed of the ocean at a lower depth.” Most of the wells he described were private. Nevertheless, he did mention “the well in progress at the Government Reservoir, Makiki Valley,” and “the King’s well.”


A survey reported by the PCA on January 14, 1882 describes all borings in the district and refers to the “Government well at Makiki” and another planned “near Aliiolani Hale.” In summary, the PCA said “a dozen wells have now been opened, the majority of which are flowing night and day, but as yet no difference in the flow from the earliest of them has been noticed.” This observation led to the erroneous conclusion, held by quite a few people, that “regarded as a water supply, for the population it can serve, it may be called inexhaustible.”

Incidentally, only one of the wells surveyed by the PCA was reported to be capped; the other non-freely flowing holes were dug at elevations higher that 42 feet above mean sea level and consequently had water standing in the well’s pipe.


Two contemporary developments related to water were the construction of several cisterns at major street intersection in Honolulu to supply water for fire fighting, and a growing awareness to address the question of sanitation and the need for a sewage system.


Despite the growth of the gravity and artesian water supply systems, and in view of a growing population, water shortages became a constant theme that frequently necessitated the imposition of usage restrictions. The following 1882 newspaper announcement signed by D. Freeth, Superintendent of Water Works, and Simon K. Kaai, Minister of Interior, graphically illustrate this point: “Water! Water! IRRIGATION AFTER THIS DATE, JUNE 23d, is limited to Four Hours (4) per Day From 6 to 8 in the Morning and from 4 to 6 in the Evening... Persons found irrigating except during specified hours will have their privileges suspended without notice.”


The next step in the story that eventually led to the Dam at Nu`uanu Reservoir No. 4 was made known by the PCA of February 16, 1884:  “A valuable series of maps and plans have ... been prepared, and an Engineer of high repute and of large practical experience in hydraulics was sent for and has arrived in Honolulu, being a passenger by the Mariposa. This gentleman is Major A. S. Bender, whose report on what is known in California as the ‘Slickens’ question, is reported to be the most able that has been produced on that agitating subject... Major Bender is to take [the] question of water supply in hand.”


By the way, “slickens” refers to fine materials produced in hydraulic mining operations; in the above context, it refers to an environmental controversy that culminated in a January 1884 decision by Judge Lorenzo B. Sawyer restricting hydraulic mining in California.


May 2006:  Four Nu`uanu Dams

By: C. S. Papacostas

Last December I started to trace the tumultuous history of the Nu`uanu Dam at Reservoir No. 4 and its relation to Honolulu’s water supply system. For this month (May 2006), I originally planned to elaborate on another major reason for constructing water-retaining dams in Nu`uanu Valley: The generation of hydroelectric power to light the city’s streets, a government operation that was inaugurated as early as March 1888.


However, after sending my April installment to Warren Yamamoto, our diligent Wiliki editor, a calamitous breach of the Kaloko (a.k.a. “Ka Loko” and “Koloko”) Dam on March 14, 2006 robbed 7 people of their lives and wreaked havoc on the Garden Isle. The disaster sounded an alarm that affixed the state’s attention almost exclusively on dam safety. Having written about Nu`uanu No. 4, I should have anticipated the volume of inquiries I received about the utilization and condition of that particular structure, but I didn’t!


Among those asking about it were news reporters, attorneys, engineers and planners, and other concerned folks. Surprisingly, many of these people were not aware of the fact that the “Big Nu`uanu Dam” is not the only such structure in the valley. For example, I found it a bit discordant to watch a certain TV reporter talking about No. 4 while the cameraperson panned to No. 2 instead!


​In response to this situation, I resolved to first paint with a very broad-brush an outline of the system’s history in this and next month’s articles, returning to the juicy details after that.


In a nutshell, there are four dam-impounded reservoirs in Nu`uanu Valley. They are numbered from 1 to 4 as one travels mauka. No. 1 is located near the O`ahu Country Club on the ‘Ewa side of Pali Highway and No. 4 is to the right of the highway as it climbs uphill from Honolulu near the famous precipice.


“The construction of storage reservoirs in Nuuanu, and in connection therewith the utilization of the water power for the purpose of lighting the city” was among the topics that the Superintendent of Public Works W. E. Rowell discussed in his 1890 biennial report to Lorrin A. Thurston, Minister of the Interior of the Kingdom of Hawai`i.


He also said that “two reservoirs have been completed and the third is nearly so. In each case the same general plan of construction is followed viz: a dam of earth compactly rolled. Reservoir No. 1 is located at the Electric Light Works, was completed in August 1889, at a cost of $11,320.63, [with] a capacity of 23,240,000 gallons. Reservoir No. 2, located at the half way bridge, was completed in June,1889, at a cost of $10,989.59 with a capacity of about 7,959,000 U.S. gallons [and] Reservoir No. 3 is located about one-fourth mile mauka than No. 2 and will be completed probably before the 1st of June at a cost of about $6,600 with a capacity of 12,240,000 gallons.” As early as that time, Rowell already recommended capacity expansions.


In his report to the 1890 Legislative Assembly, Minister Thurston places No. 1 “at the Electric Light Station,” No. 2 “at the Halfway house,” and No. 3 “opposite Luakaha.” Of course, geographic referencing to one’s familiar monuments is prone to cause difficulties to future readers and historians, to wit, the “electric station” is now an all but forgotten ruin, “the Half-way House,” “the Half-way bridge,” and a nearby “Maile Store” are depicted on old maps that are often of questionable accuracy, and “Luakaha” meant different things at different times, including varying extents of upper Nu`uanu Valley, a once well-known stately residence, and a street. Trying to avoid using such references, however, is not as easy as one may think and, in fact, I have committed the same sin above by identifying the location of No. 1 in relation to the O’ahu Country Club and the Pali Highway.


In 1892, only two years after completion of the third dam, John C. White, Superintendent of the Honolulu Water Works, informed the next Interior Minister, Charles N. Spencer, that “reservoir No. 3 leaks very badly through the old ground along the Government road.”  Likewise, No. 2 is “leaking very much along the bottom of the made dam,” whereas No. 1 “is in like condition, leaky.”


By this time, proposals for a larger dam and reservoir farther up the valley were at least a decade old, but the issue became embroiled in a debate on “pumping artesian water vs. gravity distributed surface water,” along with attendant issues such as purity, cost, availability, and generation of power. Disruptions during and subsequent to the 1893 overthrow of the Monarchy impacted events and it was not until June 23, 1905, that a contract was signed for a project that commenced on July 29 of the same year and was initially scheduled for completion by October 1, 1906. Unfortunately, as Governor George R. Carter was to be quoted in the June 22, 1906, Evening Bulletin, “no large public work can be undertaken without meeting severe opposition, both just and unjust.”


Accusations flared up in June 1906 about faulty design, improper construction methods, inferior materials, ulterior motives, and even nepotism that rekindled the bitter controversy and caused a series of delays, the cancellation and re-letting of the contract, two sets of major design changes, and cost escalations. In a subdued tone, Governor Carter, in 1907, related to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior that “of the various internal improvements undertaken by the Territory during the past year, none has caused more public comment than the Nuuanu dam [that] is not only to furnish water, but also power to light the city, operate the sewer pumps, or in dry seasons to operate the pumps at low levels which draw their supply from the artesian basins under the city.”


The next Governor, Walter F. Frear, accepted the project (No. 4) in 1910 and so informed the U.S. Secretary of the Interior by saying “a reservoir with a capacity of about 700,000,000 gallons was completed at an elevation of about 1000 feet in Nuuanu Valley back of Honolulu, at a cost of about $300,000.”


June 2006:  Pure, Clean Water

By: C. S. Papacostas

Thrum’s 1906 “Hawaiian Almanac and Annual” (HAA) said, “the Electric Light Station in Nuuanu valley has had recently completed a new substantial brick building for its power house to meet the increased efficiency that will be required of it when the new reservoir water supply becomes available.”


As I explained last month (May 2006), the Big Reservoir was not finished until 1910. The “Evening Bulletin” (EB) of July 1 then proclaimed “Nuuanu dam is finished and Honolulu will never want for water during any dry season again, it is predicted.” Similarly, in his report to Governor Walter F. Frear that year, Superintendent of Public Works J. W. Caldwell declared “the reservoir has fulfilled all expectations, not alone from the standpoint of water supply, but from the standpoint of furnishing power for lighting the city.”


Contrary to these hopes, however, the May 24, 1913 “Star-Bulletin” (SB) informed the public “the city has just gone through one of its periods of water famine. Up to within a few days ago, over a large part of the municipality between Moanalua and Diamond Head irrigation was absolutely prohibited.” During these low water periods, street lighting service was purchased from the reliable Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) that had become a regulated monopoly.


By Act 50 of the 1913 Legislature, the Territory transferred Honolulu’s water and sewer works to City & County jurisdiction beginning on June 30, 1914. The city was obliged to accept the system even though “complaints have been made that the potable water is a breeder of disease, and the cause of it has been traced to the big dam in Nuuanu [SB, May 15, 1913].” Also “because of the illkept condition of the water dam, 800,000 gallons a day are escaping, due to a broken ‘toe’ of the dam.” An appraisal issued in 1914 found No. 1 in good condition but needing cleaning, No. 2 as “not any too good” due to leakage and thick vegetation, No. 3 “apparently
excellent,” and No. 4 “excellent.”


Several proposals were put forth to augment the often diminished sources of Nuuanu water, but strong opposition developed on the grounds of health protection, structural integrity, and availability of sufficient water from the alternate sources. At the center of the battlefield for several years was the “Hillebrand Glen Project,” an early design of which Roger C. Rice, USGS Assistant Engineer, described in the April 1917 issue of “Monthly Weather Review” as “a scheme to utilize the storm waters of Maole Stream for storage in reservoir No. 4 by constructing a diverting dam, tunnel and lined open ditch.” Current maps designate the stream and the ditch by the alternate spelling “Mo`ole.” Hillebrand Glen (spelled in various ways by the newspapers of the time), “is a valley ... lying between the western ridge of Nuuanu Valley and a southern spur from Mount Lanihuli,” The name does not appear on modern maps that I checked but it was in honor of the German physician and botanist William Hillebrand who became the first director of The Queens Hospital in 1859. His home where he nurtured exotic plants is now known, after subsequent owner Mary E., as the Foster Botanical Gardens. Bids for the Mo`ole ditch were opened in November 1916 and, by all accounts, the project was completed in September of the next year.


The O`ahu Loan Commission that was to decide on the issuance of bonds for water projects in 1916, appointed an Engineers’ Committee to investigate No. 4. according to the Pacific Commercial Advertiser” (PCA). The committee which, incidentally, included B. F. Howland, the territory’s resident engineer during construction, concluded, “the dam shows no signs of physical deterioration,” and recommended attending to damage sustained by the effluent pipe and detailed monitoring of the seepage.


To combat fears about water-borne pathogens, the operators of the system resorted to chlorination. They also proposed a filtration plant, an idea that kept resurfacing for decades. For several days in 1917, a detail of the National Guard was called out to keep pedestrians away from the Pali Road and Hillebrand Glen for fear of “contamination of city water by Alien Enemies” after the entry of the U. S. in World War I [SB, Oct. 12, 1917].”


The next milestone in the saga of the Nu`uanu dams was April 9, 1923, the day when Reservoir No. 5 (a cylindrical reinforced concrete structure located near No. 1) began supplying the city with water from mountain tunnels dug farther up the valley. The earthen reservoirs no longer serving this purpose, “everyone in the city now is receiving pure, clean water for the first time in the history of Honolulu [SB April 24, 1923].”


Finally, economic exigencies pointed to the purchase of electric power from HECO rather than producing it at the Nu`uanu Plant and, on Oct. 1, 1929, this government function ceased to exist; a story in the Nov. 6, 1929 Honolulu Advertiser (HA) announced “William L. Frazee, superintendent of the electric light department for 29 years, last night submitted his resignation.”


A cataclysmic episode occurred in November 1930 when the spillway at No. 2 was severely damaged and overflows along the top of the structure rushed down the valley. At the same time, the water level in No. 4 reached to within seven feet of the top.


A commissioned report on the state of No. 4 to the newly established Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS) by notable engineer J. B. Lippincott stated, “If the dam is not repaired and strengthened, it should be taken out.” His own recommendation was to reconstruct the dam to supply water via the “proposed filtration plant” to the growing population, to regulate floods and to act as a means of percolation [SB Feb. 12, 1931]. The recommended extensive changes were completed on Feb. 1, 1934.


The open reservoirs were then used solely for flood control until after World War II when the Territory introduced freshwater game fishes to the islands. July 5-6, 1969 marked the opening of No. 4 to recreational fishing.


Since then, No. 4 was the subject of inspections by the U. S. Corps of Engineers in 1977, and Phase I and II dam safety inspections by consultants to the State of Hawaii and the Honolulu Board of Water Supply in 1992 and 1999 respectively. Details to come...


July 2006:  Bender's Ill-Fated Plans

By: C. S. Papacostas

One of the first official proposals for the construction of a major reservoir in the vicinity of the current No. 4 in Nu`uanu Valley was made by Major A. S. Bender who, as I mentioned last April, was commissioned by the Kingdom in early 1884 “to take [the] question of water supply in hand,” according to the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (PCA) of Feb. 16. The California consulting engineer was eventually asked to address the city’s need for wastewater disposal and to assist in establishing street grades as well.


In his report to the 1884 session of the Legislative Assembly that opened on April 26, King Kalakaua was quoted, “My Minister of the Interior will also submit for your consideration, plans for the supply of Honolulu with an abundance of water to an extent commensurate with a large future development of the city.” [PCA May 3, 1884].


A short report from Bender to Minister Charles T. Gulick is contained in the latter’s report for 1884, which I discovered in the rare books section of the Hawaiian Collection at the University’s Hamilton Library.


Bender’s report, dated April 12, 1884, begins, “SIR: In obedience to your instructions, I have made preliminary examinations on the most eligible sites for storage reservoirs ... in both the Manoa and Nuuanu Valleys.” He recommended “an earth or masonry dam of large dimensions. Considerations of real economy as well as due regard for the safety of private property lying below any site that may be selected, demand that this structure should be of the most enduring character.” In order “to commence and carry on the work during the present fiscal period,” he suggested the sum of $200,000 and he concluded by saying that he had not as yet studied the role of artesian wells in the overall scheme of permanent water supply.


The 1886 Biennial report of Minister Gulick ascertains that the Bureau of Surveying had completed the first comprehensive mapping of the city’s water supply system in 1883. It also contains, as appendices, four reports by Major Bender: a preliminary and a final report on the Water Supply of Honolulu dated June 12, 1884 and July 31, 1885 respectively, and a preliminary and final report on the Sewage of Honolulu, dated July 31, 1885 and March 31, 1886.


​In the first report, he selected Nu`uanu Valley over Manoa for a storage reservoir and presented two alternatives that had been “contoured under the direction of the Surveyor-General.” These were a large “upper site” and a preferred lower site “below the Pelly falls.”

Having rejected an earth dam, he proposed a solid masonry dam, “a structure that would never be swept away, which an unusual disturbance of nature might injure to the extent of causing leakage and a gradual loss of the stored water, but not to that of occasioning its sudden and destructive descent upon the lands below.” In addition, he specified a reservoir relying “upon a moderate and uniform depth rather than upon the natural condition of the basin” with “bottom and sides as impervious as possible.” In this manner, sediment accumulation, vegetable growth, and evaporation would be minimized.


A distributing reservoir at an as yet unspecified location was to be excavated and “lined with some impervious coating, such as concrete, puddling or both.”


In his final report, Bender confirmed the aforementioned “Luakaha” location as the better of the two considered and provided design details, including a 25-foot high dam with a reservoir elevation, when full, at 785 feet above mid-tide, an adjustable pipe “by means of which a supply may be drawn from the purest stratum,” and a masonry double-chamber filtering reservoir near the head of the ditch with a water elevation at 378 feet. He also specified the necessary pipe configuration and the preferred location of a one-million gallon distributing reservoir “upon the spur of [Punchbowl] hill, nearly opposite the head of Emma Street... 190 feet above mid-tide.”


Finally, he proposed keeping the existing supplies “furnished by the pool at Kapena Falls [and] the Makiki source.” Various references explain that both of these were operated with the use of masonry reservoirs.


In addition to his water supply and sewage works assignments, Bender was one of three engineers that oversaw the establishment of grades for streets and highways. The other two engineers were J. D. Brown and Julius H. Smith, Superintendent of Public Works [PCA Nov. 10, 1886].


Interestingly, on Dec. 29, 1884, that is, before issuance of Bender’s final report on the subject, Minister Gulick published a request for proposals to construct, in accordance with plans and specifications, a storage reservoir, “a dam of first class rubble masonry laid in full beds of hydraulic cement,” distribution pipes, and a concrete or brick-work distributing reservoir, with a proviso that “the Minister reserves the right to reject the lowest or any bid.”


According to Thos. F. Sedgwick’s “History of the Honolulu Water Works” that was published in 1913, “Major Bender’s plans were not carried out at this time.”


August 2006:  Seeing the Street Light!

By: C. S. Papacostas

Last month, I mentioned a request for proposals issued in December 1884 for the construction of a water-impounding dam in Nu`uanu Valley, apparently based on Major A. S. Bender’s specifications. On February 10, 1885, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (PCA) endorsed the project by saying “... the work for which the Government has invited tenders is none too small for the supply of the city.”

Bender’s plans were never executed and a public debate about the relative merits of alternative sources failed to produce a clear winner for some time.


​The waste of water from open channels and uncapped artesian wells in the presence of recurring shortages generated some interest in demand management through water metering but the implementation of pricing based on use had to await the passage of several decades. Arguing against metering was the observation “that the water meter has in some places been used as an engine of extortion” [PCA 3/2/1885], the need for the additional personnel and costs for the installation and regular reading of the meters and the question of what we now call “privatization,” that is, whether “it is easier for a chartered company to institute such a system than the Government to do so.” This issue surfaced around the time when “Sugar King” Claus Spreckels was accused that he “intended to convert the Water Works and harbor of Honolulu to his own use” [PCA 7/18/1886].


The annual rates for water in 1885 were reported to be $15 dollars for a quarter-inch pipe, $25 for half-inch and $75 for a threequarter inch opening [PCA 3/22/1885]. Pursuant to a legal notice issued on Nov. 5, 1885, fee collection was, in today’s lingo, “outsourced” to W. R. Seal, Esq. Some consumers had even been given “free water privileges,” a practice that Interior Minister Chas. T. Gulick ordered discontinued after June 30, 1886 [PCA 6/21/1886]. It is no wonder then that those who became accustomed to paying nominal (or zero) rates for practically unlimited quantities of water were not too keenly predisposed toward change!


While these policies were being considered, Charles B. Wilson, the Kingdom’s Superintendent of Water Works and father of future Honolulu Mayor Johnny Wilson, attempted to optimize the city’s supply by overseeing the drilling of artesian wells and the expansion of the inflows from Kapena Falls into a masonry distribution tank in Nu`uanu. For sanitary reasons, swimming in Kapena Pool was prohibited [PCA 3/26/1885].


And then, a milestone event occurred that suddenly enhanced surface storage feasibility: Hydroelectric power generation. On Dec. 1886, the PCA announced that “a specific sum has been appropriated in the Loan Act for lighting Honolulu by electricity,” and on January 30, 1888, it predicted that the city was “to be lighted with electric light, as the wheel to run the water power is expected in the next steamer.”


Electric lighting was not new to 1888 Hawai`i, but large scale street lighting was. In his “First and Almost Firsts in Hawai`i,” Robert C. Schmitt tells us that in April 1879 the English naval vessel ‘Triumph’ turned on an electric spotlight and that “the earliest use of electric lights ashore ... appears to be in Mill Number One of the Spreckelsville Plantation on Maui on August 21, 1881.” Schmitt repeats the oftentold lighting of the palace grounds and vicinity in Honolulu on July 21, 1886 and that “in March 1888, permanent electric street lights were turned on.”

For some technical details, I consulted the government reports issued that year by the new Interior Minister Lorin A. Thurston, Acting Superintendent of Public Works W. R. Lawrence, Superintendent of Government Electric Lights W. O. Faulkner and Charles B. Wilson of the Water Works.


Thurston reported that a 12-light arc dynamo was earlier located in the palace yard and that the King “had bought a boiler, engine and incandescent dynamo on his private account, and the 12-light dynamo was being run with power from his engine.” However, analysis showed that the most economical generation would be from the Water Works.


Faulkner also justified the decision to discontinue the operation of the Palace Station based on calculations by Superintendent of Public Works W. E. Rowell and Lawrence. Accordingly, “a head of from 300 to 330 feet could be obtained at the elevation known as Queen Emma lot in Nuuanu Valley, this giving about 130 horse power.” The new dynamo station was located instead “opposite the Wood estate, it having been found that the Queen Emma lot could not be secured.” The contract was awarded to Peter High, ground was broken November 23, 1887 and the government accepted the building on January 21, 1888. The water wheel arrived on March 6 and on Friday, March 23, “at 7 p.m. H.R.H. Princess Kaiulani accomplished the honor of first lighting the city of Honolulu.” By running its wires on the poles of the Mutual Telephone Co., the government saved some capital costs.


Wilson added that, with his assistant J. C. White, he carried out “a great deal of correspondence ... with the leading manufacturing machinists of Eastern cities” about the needed turbine and chose one from James Leffel & Co. of Springfield, Ohio.


Lawrence reported a surplus of power, the possibility of deriving income from “businesshouses and dwellings,” and a recommendation to construct, at a minimum, a 3 million gallon reservoir “for storage of night flow.”


Wilson preferred a series of three reservoirs and Thurston rejected “the plans of Major Bender and Mr. Schussler” in favor of a “limited number of small reservoirs” to avoid “the danger of the carrying away [a large] dam by flood.”


I discussed Bender’s role last month (July 2006). From various sources, we know that Hermann Schussler was an engineer who had immigrated to California from Zurich in 1864 and had been hired by Claus Spreckels in 1878 to work on several ditches on Maui. He is widely proclaimed as the inventor of the so called “inverted siphon.”


September 2006:  Citizen Labor Only, On Nu`uanu Dam

By: C. S. Papacostas

This is how George F. Nellist conveyed the arrival of hydroelectric power to light the streets of Honolulu in 1888 that I addressed last month (August 2006):


“Two small reservoirs were constructed in Nuuanu valley, one at Luakaha and the other near the old Half Way House... which proved to be a great success, providing lights for the city streets.”


His account was in the 2nd installment of his history of the city’s water works that appeared in the Jan. 13, 1952 issue of “The Hawaiian Weekly and Polynesian” supplement of the Honolulu Advertiser. In response to a severe drought in 1888-1889, Nellist continues, “work was started on Nuuanu earth reservoirs Nos. 1, 2 and 3, and they were completed the following year.”


The debate did tend to flare up and calm down with the cyclical low and high rainfall periods that we now associate with the El Nino Southern Oscillation. In the case at hand, the apple of contention was whether it was prudent to incorporate surface storage with gravity distribution within the city’s public water supply or whether to rely exclusively on artesian wells. This time around, the former option won the day.

On May 6, 1890, just before the completion of the third Nu`uanu dam, yet another U.S. consulting engineer, G. F. Allardt, released a “Report on the increase of power for electric light plan.” On a blueprint that was reduced from an official “Honolulu Water Works Map,” he showed a pipeline configuration and elevations for not only the three new reservoirs, but also for a clearly labeled larger “Reservoir No. 4 (Proposed)” farther up the valley. The Kingdom’s Superintendent of Public Works W.E. Rowell verified in his annual report that “a partial survey for a large storage reservoir in upper Nuuanu” was among the highly varied activities completed by W. W. Bruner, who in contemporaneous accounts was described as a government surveyor.


Allardt and fellow engineer James Dix Schuyler were brought to Hawaii by B. F. Dillingham “to aid him in forming his plans for extensive irrigation works,” said the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (PCA, Aug. 17, 1889). Within months, the two collaborators completed a report entitled “Culture of sugar. Report on water supply for irrigation of the Honouliuli and Kahuku ranchos,” which included a rudimentary theory of the structure of the underlying artesian source. Allardt also worked on Dillinham’s Oahu Railroad and Land (OR&L) Co. and in 1890 he was engaged by the government for two projects: To develop a plan for the dredging of “the Honolulu Bar” to facilitate harbor navigation and, like Major Bender before him, to prepare a comprehensive sewage plan for Honolulu. His report for the latter was issued in both English and Hawaiian (listed without diacritical marks as “Hoike kuikawa maluna o na hawai lawe ino o Honolulu, ko Hawaii Pae Aina”).


As we shall see in a future article, Schuyler played a pivotal role in the final design of the original dam at Nu`uanu Reservoir No. 4.

Much happened between the re-conception of the proposed reservoir in 1890 and the beginning of construction in 1905. Political events ranging from the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893 to party politics under alternate governmental structures strongly influenced the on-again, off-again progress of the idea to which the requirement of purifying surface water was added. According to T. F. Sedgwick’s 1913 history of the city’s water works, during a cholera epidemic that broke out in 1895, “the Board of Health, adopted stringent measures for its eradication. The mountain water was shut off as far as possible, and artesian water substituted because of itsbeing less subject to contamination.” The establishment of a chemical laboratory under the direction of Prof. L. L. Van Slyke at Oahu College (read, Punahou School) accelerated the scientific analysis of water quality [PCA June 30, 1888] and technical advances brought to market a variety of competing filtration systems.


To make a very long story short, in 1894, the “Hawaiian Star” (HS) had phrased thus the main argument that eventually (that is, 10 years later) prevailed:


“If drinking water was one desideratum, there would be no necessity to build storage reservoirs among the hills. But the fact that surplus rain, impounded at a considerable height, would supply not only potable water, but manufacturing power, puts a different face on the question.”

The 1905 version of this leitmotif was enunciated by the then Territorial Superintendent of Public Works C. S. Holloway:


“There are millions of gallons of water to be had if we go after them, and if we construct reservoirs we can have a gravity system and secure power, instead of having to pump waters as we do now.”


It was Holloway’s assistant, J. Hasting Howland, who reported in 1905 that “Mr. S. G. Walker has just completed a very thorough investigation into the possibilities in the upper Nuuanu Valley, and, besides submitting a full set of plans for dam, reservoir, and pipe line down to the new electric power station, has filed reports plainly showing just what can be expected from this source.”


Holloway then issued on April 15 a request for proposals for the construction of “a One Story Building for the ‘Electric Light Plant’” and on May 5 a notice to contractors for proposals “for constructing Dam and Reservoir, in the Nuuanu Valley” according to plans and specifications.

A curious episode followed: Hawaiian Electric’s (HECO) general manager Alonzo Gartley was quoted in the July 8 “Evening Bulletin” (EB) as being interested in leasing the territory’s electric plant to sell power to the newly established Oahu County. Moreover, in what appears as a ploy to secure a favorable deal, an unnamed HECO engineer was quoted in a separate story to warn that unless the proposed dam “is very carefully constructed, it is going to break lose [sic] someday and wipe out a portion of the city of Honolulu with tremendous loss of life and property” and to shed doubt on whether the possibility had been seriously considered but Holloway retorted “that he knew of no possibility of the proposed dam being dangerous.”


The HECO deal was not consummated.


In the meantime, work at the site was underway and on Aug. 15, the HS provided a progress report asserting, among other things, that the workforce had reached a size of 154 men and emphasizing that “citizen labor only is employed on the work, Hawaiians being in the majority with Portuguese a close second. There are quite a number of whites employed and also some negroes.”

More about this racial wrinkle in labor practices next month...


October 2006:  "Desirable" Immigration

By: C. S. Papacostas

On May 5, 1905, C. S. Holloway, Superintendent of Public Works for the Territory of Hawai`i, issued a notice to contractors requesting proposals “for Constructing Dam and Reservoir, in the Nuuanu Valley.” Plans and specifications were filed with his assistant J. H. Howland. This was the upshot of a prolonged controversial decision to expand Honolulu’s surface water supply.


The procurement method specified, “this contract, though a schedule contract, is to be awarded as a whole, and the estimated quantities, which are included in the specifications, together with the complete list of prices submitted in each case, are to be used as a basis of determining the lowest bidder. These estimated quantities however are approximate only, and the Superintendent of Public Works expressly reserves the right of increasing or diminishing the same as may be deemed necessary.” 


As L.M. Whitehouse, the winning contractor, later put it to the Hawaiian Star (HS) of June 7, 1906, “the work is not being done for a lump contract price, but on the basis of units... on the basis of a fixed price for units of the several kinds of work.”


Howland had announced in 1905 that S. G. Walker drew the plans and specifications for the dam. From the Evening Bulletin (EB) of Jan. 18, 1904, we learn that Howland’s previous engagement was in Puna, Hawai`i. Walker himself was referred to as being “of Hilo” but also “of Boston.” It turns out that he had started his design work on the dam while in Hawai`i but completed it and received final payment after returning to Boston. By the way, he was also Howland’s brother-in-law!


In connection with a subsequent contract dispute (which I will discuss in a future article), the EB [June 6, 1906] singled out this clause in Walker’s specifications to give a flavor of their degree of specificity:


“The dam is to consist essentially of an earthen embankment, formed of suitable materials satisfactorily disposed, and containing a corewall composed of plank and timbers, carried down to a proper depth to be determined by the engineer. Such probable depth is shown on the plans, but the depth as shown is not to be considered exact or final, as it will be varied according to the character of the formation encountered in the excavation.”


It was not until after construction started that Superintendent Holloway publicly admitted that “at the time the work was laid out we had no core drill and as a precautionary measure we are now finding the exact condition and nature of the strata below the dam site [HS, Jan. 4, 1906].”


The contract was let and, as I mentioned last month (Sept. 2006), the contractor was required to employ only “citizen labor.” This information I got from the Aug. 15, 1905 issue of HS that, among other items, also identified a Charles Smith as the engineer and a Frank Foster as the foreman.


By then, a dense thicket of hau trees had been cleared, a 35 to 38-foot deep trench was being dug partly by blasting for the 80-foot high core wall, one ditch was being dug on the Waikiki side of the valley to be used for “hydraulicing” and another flume was being prepared across to the other side.


At the same time, “a wooden bridge is being erected across the gulch at present and in a few days a busy little locomotive will run panting about the work pulling, shoving and tugging cars loaded with earth, rock and other material for the big dam. A stone quarry has already been located on the Waikiki side of the valley and lovers of the beautiful will be torn with anguish as they see the ruthless hand of utilitarianism dig into the moss and fern-covered rocks.” So much for environmental sensitivity!


“For the accommodation of the large force of men employed,” it continued, “three camps have been built... There is a thoroughly equipped blacksmith and carpenter shop, store house, a well stocked grocery and general store which is in charge of [sic] R. H. Worrall, and a restaurant which is run as a private venture by an enterprising Pake.” Illustrating the construction logistics of the times, all this development was only “about half a mile above C. M. Cooke’s beautiful residence.”


The idea of English language newspapers in Hawai`i referring to Caucasians by their names but Asians merely by their nationality was not uncommon. In fact, it was consistent with the prevailing “citizen labor” laws which, when all said and done and with only a few exceptions, were intended to limit immigration from Asia and to positively encourage “desirable immigration.”


The following excerpt represents a small, and comparatively mild, sample of this thinking from a discussion in the New York Independent by Territorial Secretary A. L. C. Atkinson [reprinted in HS Oct. 15, 1905]:


​“The Legislature has just created a Board of Immigration, which, in cooperation with the sugar planters and others, is laying plans for securing a supply of white labor consisting of men with families who will found homes and become American citizens, and for encouraging the immigration of the American settler. The mistake of encouraging the Asiatic skilled laborer at the expense of the American is now realized, and I believe that a few years will see a marked return of white skilled laborers to these islands.”


Among the proposed incentives offered to these “desirables” were employment opportunities and homesteads.


November 2006:  "Sluicing is Much Cheaper"

By: C. S. Papacostas

The early 1900s requirement to use only “citizen labor” on public projects that I discussed last month (October 2006) was not without its opponents who supported their position on grounds of labor availability and cost. When the Maui News objected to the requirement, the Hawaiian Star [HS, 10/4/1904] quoted the Territory’s Secretary Alatau L. C. Atkinson to retort that contractors “can get all the citizen labor they want if they will pay a fair price. Perhaps it may cost them more than it would for Japanese labor but that has nothing to do with the question.”


To deal with the issue of labor availability, the Superintendent of Public Works, C. S. Holloway, proposed a procedure “to employ Asiatics” on public projects when citizen labor was truly unavailable, but to also ensure that cost savings resulting from the lower wages earned by them accrued to the Territory rather than the contractor [HS, 10/28/1904].


The construction of the “Big Dam” at Nu`uanu Reservoir No. 4, however, commenced on July 29, 1905 with citizen labor only [HS, 8/15/1905], despite strong opposition to its construction and design adequacy [EB, 7/8/1905].


​On Sept. 26 of that year, the HS carried the front-page headline “Nuuanu Water Undrinkable,” describing it as a “liquid containing mud enough to make it the color of a weak tea.” This condition was caused by sluicing operations at the dam that allowed soil to enter the surface water supply. Assistant Superintendent J. H. Howland all but dismissed the contaminants as “clean dirt,” but the executive officer of the Board of Health, Dr. J. S. B. Pratt, left that same afternoon with chemist R. A. Duncan, Food Commissioner and Analyst, to examine the Nu`uanu water supply. Holloway announced to the Evening Bulletin [EB, 9/27/1905] that sluicing was the preferred method of construction as it cost 15 cents “a square yard” vs. 56 cents “by other methods” and that he took immediate action to supply artesian water by pumping as much as possible.


On the following day, the HS reprinted Duncan’s report to Lucius E. Pinkham, President of the Board of Health. Duncan found that “the contamination due to the sluicing operations ... consists of an increase of double the solid matter and a very large increase in highly objectionable organic matter” and that “the use of water contaminated with earthy and organic matter may possibly result in decease.” However, “from Mr. C. H. Smith, the government engineer, we learned that within one hour of our visit on Tuesday [the 26th] the sluicing operations were discontinued and when again begun provision will be made to prevent contaminated water reaching the reservoirs.” Nevertheless, noting that not all consumers could be served by pumping, the Sept. 29 HS leveled an accusation that “the authorities allow a favored contractor to sluice soil instead of carting it away.”


On Oct. 7, Pinkham reported to the Board of Health that “the Department of Public Works has kindly consented to permit the Board to examine the arrangements now being installed for the protection of the water supply before further sluicing is undertaken.” In November, the Board approved a recommendation by Pinkham to forbid fishing in Nu`uanu Stream [EB, 11/23/1905] and at the Dec. 20 meeting of the Board he concluded “in company with Dr. Pratt and Analyst Duncan, I, this morning, made a thorough investigation of conditions at the new Nuuanu reservoir. With the carrying out of our recommendations, there can be no contamination of the water supply” [HS, 12/21/1905]. Earlier, the HS [10/18/1905] had disclosed that “boys bathe in Nuuanu Stream,” despite a prohibition, adding that “possibly the amusement of a few kids on a Sunday does not seriously affect the water but then the idea is not a nice one.” At about the same time frame, various individuals and entities, including the Hawaii Medical Society, strongly endorsed the filtering of drinking water as a defense against typhoid fever[EB, 11/20/1905] but, as reported later, the Legislature had not, as yet, made an appropriation for a proposed filtration plant [HS, 5/2/1906].


As things appeared to calm down, a short newspaper article stated “the discovery of a number of surface springs in the workings at the new Nuuanu reservoir have been giving the men there considerable trouble recently, but there seems to be no reason to believe that there will be any permanent difficulties to dispose of in the course of the work.” Holloway characterized the springs as merely “a nuisance during the rainy season” [HS, 1/29/1906] but a future article in this series will show that this was not a very accurate assessment of the situation.


To add to the accumulating construction difficulties, then Acting Governor Atkinson, due to Honolulu-born George Robert Carter’s illness, “has taken up the matter of the long delay in completing the Nuuanu reservoir dam” [HS, 3/23, 1906]. He visited the site with Lou Whitehouse, the contractor, and F. E. Thomson, the contractor’s attorney, and concluded “there seems to be many troubles over specifications and other matters.” About three weeks later, Holloway, speaking to the Pacific Commercial Advertiser of April 11, 1906, attributed some of the delays to a lack of rainfall:


“Work is progressing very slowly because of the water shortage. We have no water with which to sluice in the mud and all the material is placed by hand. That is expensive and slow. Sluicing is so much cheaper.”


But this turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg!


December 2006:  Let Engineers Investigate

By: C. S. Papacostas

The original design of the dam at Reservoir No. 4 in Nu`uanu Valley called for an earthen structure with a wooden core wall “carried down to proper depth.” As I pointed out last month (Nov. 2006), shortly after construction commenced, signs of “troubles over specifications and other matters” were publicly disclosed.”


In what follows, I summarize the tumultuous months that followed by piecing together the main picture that emerged from reports of the Hawaiian Star [HS], the Evening Bulletin [EB], and the Pacific Commercial Advertiser [PCA].


On June 1, 1906, project inspector W. R. Paterson, a brick mason by trade, issued the following order to contractor L. M. Whitehouse:

“Dear Sir: - I hereby notify you that I, as Government Inspector on Nuuanu reservoir, condemn the wooden pipe under reconstruction, and consider it beyond satisfactory repair.”


The subject pipe was an effluent (or “waste”) pipe that, along with an outlet (or supply) pipe, was designed to pierce the dam near its midpoint and to be operated by a valve tower within the reservoir.


Due to unknown site conditions, the specifications had left much to judgment of the engineer. In fact, future Honolulu Mayor John H. Wilson (whose partnership with Whitehouse’s was dissolved in 1899) was said to have refused to bid for the job because of this “elastic condition of the specifications” [PCA, 6/15/1906].


Smoothing the rough edges of the situation, Whitehouse said:


“The engineer is determining these matters as the work progresses, is guided by the general plans and requirements for this work, based on the particular conditions as he finds them. In this, of course, there is always room for difference of opinion” [HS, 6/7/1906]. He illustrated his last point by saying that he recommended that the two wooden pipes be “surrounded by heavier concrete,” but that the engineer was concerned about the additional costs involved. From subsequent descriptions, it appears that the contractor’s argument prevailed.

C. H. Smith, who worked under the direct supervision of Assistant Superintendent of Public Works J. H. Howland, an engineer, performed the duties of the field engineer. Howland’s brother-in-law, C. G. Walker, designed the dam.


Some of the “differences of opinion” were serious enough to precipitate a vicious controversy causing the involvement of a variety of professional groups and individuals as well as Governor George R. Carter who, by then, had recuperated from an illness and reclaimed the reigns of the Territory.


Besides rejecting the work on the effluent pipe, inspector Patterson brought up a series of concerns to Peter Cushing Jones, one of the leading citizens of Honolulu whose “fine residence” was located below the dam. Jones, in turn, encouraged Patterson to discuss these matters with the Governor, who within 48 hours paid a visit to the site and, after conferring with his Superintendent of Public Works C. S. Holloway, announced his decision to engage a competent outside engineer to investigate the project.


Immediately thereafter, the press picked up the story in earnest with headlines such as “Fears of Flood from the Big Dam” [HS, 6/5/1906], and “Patterson Declares Nuuanu Dam Unsafe” [EB, 1/6/1906], and a new series of claims and counterclaims were laid over the long-lasting debate about the project. This led the Governor to make the statement I quoted in the May 2006 article:


“No public work can be undertaken without meeting severe opposition, both just and unjust” [EB, 6/22/1906]. In a subsequent retrospective report to the Legislature, he contrasted public and private works during that period:


“Private or individual enterprise is exempt from such an attack, because the public would consider it impertinent for those not informed to comment on the work, while in the case of public work it appears to be just the reverse” [EB, 3/1/1907].


Interestingly, he touched upon an often played tune that “professional men of high integrity will continue to find public work irksome, particularly if they are sensitive, until the public realizes that moral support of honest effort is even more essential than high pay.”

From the technical perspective, there were major points of contention with respect to the adequacy of the design and specifications, materials and methods of construction.


With respect to the design, the major criticism was associated with the fact that the effluent and outlet pipes were made of wood and that they pierced the dam itself rather than circumventing it with side tunnels in solid rock. The counterpoint was that, if kept wet, wood lasts almost indefinitely as compared with iron that corrodes easily.


Those who preferred pervious or semi-pervious to “impervious” dams criticized the need for the core wall altogether, a streambed portion of which was replaced by a 4-foot thick concrete wall per Holloway’s decision [HS, 6/18/1906]. Related to this wall was the claim that the trench dug to receive it revealed numerous spring flows and was not deep enough to reach a solid foundation. Finally, placing of the valve-tower on the embankment rather than farther upstream was thought to weaken the structure. 


The specifications were criticized for not clearly calling the appropriate materials thus allowing the contractor to make inferior selections, for example, northwest pine rather than redwood.


In the absence of instructions, the contractor used staves of different sizes to build the effluent pipe, a geometric arrangement that led to the need for butt joints, which Patterson characterized as “the weakest spot in the whole construction.” In response, Howland instructed the contractor on June 8 “that all of the wood stave pipe be gone over on the inside and where open butt joints are found have them thoroughly caulked with oakum and lead” [PCA, 6/13/1906]. Four days later, he changed his mind and noted “upon further consideration I consider that wooden wedges driven into these butt joints, with white lead, would be far better than oakum, inasmuch as the oakum would undoubtedly deteriorate more rapidly than the wood” [PCA, 6/17/1906].


​These and other issues led to almost universal agreement that an expert investigation was warranted. The editor of one newspaper, for example, declared “let engineers investigate” [PCA, 6/19/1906], whereas; the editor of another raised the question “who is the independent engineer whose opinion will be accepted as final, regardless of whether the conclusion is for or against the engineers of the Territorial Government [EB, 6/19/1906]?”



History & Heritage 2006