January 2007:  "The Dam Expert Goes to Work"

By: C. S. Papacostas

This month (Jan. 2007), I trace the repercussions of inspector Patterson’s declaration in June 1906 that the Big Dam at Nu`uanu Reservoir No. 4 was not safe. My major sources were the Hawaiian Star (HS), the Evening Bulletin (EB) and the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (PCA).

The EB explained “the reservoir has been the subject of so much controversy for so many years, no surprise need be felt that it is again on the grill. The question now before the people, however, is not of policy, but of mechanical strength and engineering skill [EB, 6/6/1906].”

On the other hand, the HS noted that policy was also in play as “the fear felt for the sufficiency of the dam either in plan or construction has awaken the old issue of whether Nuuanu Valley should be used as a surface watershed or whether it would not be better to look wholly to the artesian supply using pumps [HS, 6/20].”

C. S. Holloway, the Territory’s Supt. of Public Works proposed to bring an engineer from the mainland to investigate, as he could not identify anyone in Hawai`i who was up to the task [HS & EB, 6/6].

The HS disagreed about the alleged lack of local expertise but consented to an outside expert who “would at least be free from Honolulu’s peculiar methods, petty favoritisms and petty jealousies [EB, 6/7].” Moreover, “our people here know each other so well that public opinion regarding a man’s ability as an engineer is frequently determined by the regularity with which he shines his shoes.”

To illustrate the intimacy of this knowledge, we only note that a year earlier Territorial Rep. Fernandes demanded that J. H. Howland, the Asst. Supt. under Holloway, be removed from office because he was “in the habit of getting drunk,” to which Gov. G. R. Carter retorted “Howland got drunk only in his own time, not in the government’s time, and this was not sufficient cause for removal [HS, 4/25/1905].”

The outside engineer selected was Henry Clay Kellogg of Santa Ana, California [EB, 6/12], a consulting engineer with local connections. According to the 2nd edition of a monumental reference on reservoirs and dams by James Dix Schuyler, published in 1908 by John Wiley & Sons, Kellogg conducted the original surveys and test pits about 1903 and was employed by his brother L. G. Kellogg, the manager and construction supervisor for the Wahiawa Water Co., to complete in 1906 the Wahiawa Dam.

Schuyler was first brought to Hawai`i along with G. F. Allardt to work for D. F. Dillingham [PCA, 8/17/1889]. He was brought back in May 1903 to design the Wahiawa Dam and, as we shall see in a future article, again in 1907 to “rescue” and redesign the Nu`uanu Dam.

Following the announcement of Kellogg’s selection, a variety of interests encouraged the formation of a committee of engineers to carry out the investigation. For example, “the Bulletin would prefer a commission of three engineers to the conclusions of one [EB, 6/22].” Among those suggested as likely candidates were Schuyler; Michael Maurice O’Shaughnessy “who has done such notable work on the Kohala ditch; Engineer James Taylor, the hydraulic specialist now at Wailuku [PCA 6/16];” and Captain Slattery “the engineer of the American army, a good man, although not immediately engaged in earth dam work [EB 6/30].” Others proposed a committee of Honolulu Engineers’ Association members to be appointed by that organization.

An engineer, remarkably fitting James T. Taylor’s description, was anonymously quoted that he “could report as fully and as correctly as any engineer either in the Hawaiian Islands or on the Pacific Coast, barring none [EB, 6/21].” Taylor became one of the most ardent publicityseeking people in the early Territorial era.

Howland’s own preference was the “world’s greatest expert,” John R. Freeman of Providence, Rhode Island, whom he asked to examine the plans and specifications. Copies were to be provided to him by S. G. Walker, Howland’s brother-in-law, who had designed the dam and who happened to live in the same town [EB, 6/15]. However, another paper disclosed that Freeman’s expertise was confined to the hydraulics of fire-fighting equipment [PCA, 6/18] and that he and Walker “may be business partners or intimate friends [PCA, 6/18].”

Freeman was never heard from again!

Whether true or not, “a well-known engineer” was also quoted anonymously “that incompetence in the drawing of the specifications is the crux of the whole difficulty. Contractor Whitehouse has complained, but Howland wasn’t going back on his family [PCA, 6/15].” Two papers printed long humorous poems that ridiculed this alleged case of nepotism [PCA, 6/17; EB, 6/18].

For his part, the governor issued a call to “the Engineers’ Association or any other body to discuss the proposition of Mr. Kellogg’s being satisfactory or otherwise [PCA, 6/20],” hoping to get a priori acceptance of Kellogg’s eventual report “as a conclusive decision,” but to no avail [EB, 7/6].

In a letter dated 6/22/1906, Gov. Carter turned to the Merchant’s Association to evaluate “Mr. Kellogg’s ability to pass on the questions involved.” The Association sidestepped the question and simply asked the governor to add two competent engineers and that a report from such committee would be satisfactory [HS, 6/30].

The governor held on to his choice of Kellogg as the expert investigator and, while awaiting his arrival, numerous leading citizens, with or without technical backgrounds, expounded on their respective theories regarding the dam. Despite Holloway’s statement that the dam had a factor of safety of ten [EB & HS, 6/18], Patterson persisted in his claims of deficient design and construction, adding that “an attempt is being made to cover up part of the work” before it can be examined [PCA, 6/13].

With the approval of his superiors, project engineer C. H. Smith discharged Patterson for, according to Howland, making misstatements [HS, EB & PCA, 6/22]. The inspector had been on the job for about five months after H. D. Silliman hired him while Howland, the man he butted heads with, was on vacation [PCA, 6/19].

Under the Heading “THE DAM EXPERT GOES TO WORK” the HS announced that Kellogg “arrived this morning on the S. S. Alameda and is at present stopping at the Alexander Young Hotel [HS, 7/6].”

To the EB he proclaimed “I would have no objection in any way to having others to cooperate with me in the work, but at the same time I have not asked for assistance, nor will I” and he promised “to give an entirely unbiased report on matters as I find them [EB, 7/6].”

He anticipated a 2-week long investigation and 6 days of report preparation “on the boat” taking him back to California.

March 2007:  "A Leaking Dam or A Tight Dam"

By: C. S. Papacostas

With small installments every month, the story of the Dam at Nu`uanu Reservoir No. 4 has so far taken more than a year of creeping-along. We are now entering a couple of critical turns which, encouraged by many of you, I will take a few more months to talk about before moving on to another topic. In the 

January 2007 issue, we saw the July 6, 1906 arrival of Santa Ana consulting engineer H.C. Kellogg to investigate the structural integrity of the dam that was under construction for about a year.

The local press documented his progress and actions in detailed daily reports from the moment he set foot on the island to the time of his departure. Thus, the Evening Bulletin [EB] informed the public about the minute fact that two of the people he met on his first day were C. S. McMillan and a Japanese contractor (identified only as Tashiro) with whom he had worked on “the construction of the Wahiawa dam and irrigation system.” In response to an alleged belief by many that Kellogg’s investigation might be biased, the newspaper editor admonished “if Kellogg has any friends to favor or any personal axes to grind, he will gain prestige by quitting before he starts in.”

On his very first day, the engineer stayed up until 11:45 p.m. poring over the project’s plans and specs. The next morning, a Saturday, he undertook a general reconnaissance of the site in the company of Territorial Public Works Supt. C.S. Holloway and Asst. Supt. J. H. Howland. To help his examination, he asked for cross-cuts, trenches, pits and core drill borings at various critical locations.

Of particular concern was the place below the dam’s core wall where, inspector Patterson claimed, an iron rod was thrust 16 feet without reaching solid rock, a claim that contractor L. M. Whitehouse had also made in a statement questioning Howland’s judgment [Hawaiian Star, HS, 6/20].

On July 11, Kellogg received contradictory reports from, by then, ex-inspector Patterson and resident engineer C. H. Smith but could not see any of the people that had previously commented in the press, either anonymously or over their signature, as only “a few small boys made up the ‘public’ which was so cordially invited” via newspaper ads [HS, 7/11]. His final trip to the site was on July 20, one day before his scheduled departure. Photographs he had reportedly taken at the site are probably deposited in some public or private archive awaiting rediscovery.

Before he left the island, speculation arose that he would in fact sustain Patterson’s accusations but that no matter what his conclusions were “the controversy would go on [HS, 7/21].” Later, Governor G. R. Carter admitted that he expected Kellogg to find at least several deficiencies because “this would be quite natural as no two engineers would agree exactly on such a proposition [EB, 8/8/1906].” As a result, the governor had asked Kellogg to take over as supervising engineer to implement his recommendations, whatever they might be. Kellogg, however, declined saying that he had other pressing work awaiting him on the coast.

An unanticipated delay in receiving his report added fuel to the speculative fire and had Kellogg consulting in Los Angeles with J. D. Schuyler, the designer of the Wahiawa Dam, while facing the interesting predicament “that he will assume a terrible responsibility if he approves the dam, for if he should declare it safe, and it should give way after the great reservoir is filled, his reputation would be utterly ruined [HS, 8/13].”

Kellogg’s report, “a very long typewritten report, accompanied by numerous drawings and tables [HS, 8/17]“ arrived on Aug. 17 and precipitated a major debate. In essence, it identified a number of weaknesses in specifications, materials and methods and made several recommendations to address them. Reviewing a condensed version of the report that appeared in the EB [8/18], about two-dozen items were identified and several others could be gleaned from other accounts reporting the reactions of the major actors. Here are some of his main conclusions: The plans were described as “quite complete” but the specifications were “not sufficiently definite and complete in regard to the kind of material and class of work performed.” Thus, inferior northern pine was used for the effluent pipe piercing the dam, where first class redwood was more appropriate. Although omissions were to be supplied by the engineer, the contractor did not always abide by the instructions, as when he decided to build up the two ends of the dam leaving a gaping middle, rather that starting “at the bottom, and the dam carried up longitudinally on a level.”

Furthermore, Kellogg found poor workmanship such as open joints and hollow places between the pipe and its inadequately thin and porous concrete armor. He recommended removing the constructed effluent pipe and the valve tower and to “substitute a different construction,” with the tower resting on a pile foundation. When cut off by the core wall, Kellogg suggested, “the supersaturation would render the outer slope unsafe” and there was a need to incorporate irregularly stepped benches on the side of the canyon to “secure a contact and bond with the natural formation.”

By far, however, “the greatest new proposition advanced by Kellogg” was, as Schuyler described it in his 1908 milestone textbook on dams and reservoirs, “the substitution of a rockfill on the down-stream side of the core-wall, over the channel section, about 150 feet in length.”

To this, both Holloway and Howland objected, but they were over-ruled by the governor who opted to implement Kellogg’s recommendation in toto. Otherwise, “if there was any change made from them, no matter how slight, it would mean that if they were not a success he would say that it was our fault [EB, 8/22].”

This is what the governor partly wrote to Holloway on Aug. 23: “”That Walker’s plan is the Eastern method of an earth dam, one in which the structure is impervious to water and in which the line of saturation falls well within the toe of the lower or outer earth slope, with ample coefficient of safety throughout; while Kellogg recommends the more modern Western method of a supporting stone or rock fill on the outer or lower wall, into which seepage, if any, is induced.” In simple terms, the choice was, according to an HS headline, between “A LEAKING DAM OR A TIGHT DAM.” According to the governor, “under either system a safe structure can be erected.”

April 2007:  Bring In Yet Another Expert
By: C. S. Papacostas

In August 1906, Gov. G. R. Carter ordered adoption of all changes recommended by California engineer H. C. Kellogg for the Dam at Nu`uanu Reservoir No. 4 (see March 2007 article), despite expressed misgivings from both C. S. Holloway and J. H. Howland, the Territory’s Supt. and Asst. Supt. of Public works. Kellogg’s additional cost estimate of $25,000 was doubled by Holloway to account for the legal requirement of employing “citizen labor” that was more costly than that used on the Wahiawa dam by the outside expert.

​Interestingly, Kellogg had accepted the assignment and sailed to Hawai`i without a clear understanding of what it entailed!

“I do not know exactly what I am expected to do ... I only know that there is a dam here known as the Nuuanu dam, and I am to pass upon it as to its safety. The Superintendent of Public Works cabled me to come and I came,” he told the Hawaiian Star [HS] on July 6. According to the HS, he had actually “thought he was to settle a dispute over specifications, to determine the only controversy about sluicing. He expected to stay here during the four days of the Alameda’s stay and was greatly surprised to find that he had to investigate the whole dam and report on its safety” for a mere $500.

In addition, he was also called by the Territory’s Attorney General as an expert witness on an unrelated, but important, water rights court case that involved a plan by the Palolo Land & Improvement Co. to divert water in that valley against the wishes of taro farmers who would be deprived of its use [Evening Bulletin, EB 7/21]. Based on a subsequent Territorial Supreme Court decision, both sides to the dispute prepared interrogatories for Kellogg to answer from the coast via Ed. Tedford, a notary public in Santa Ana [EB, 7/30].

Under a threat by the Governor to cancel the Nu`uanu dam contract, Holloway and contractor L. M. Whitehouse agreed to apply a provision that allowed for new classes of work required by the government, such as the rock fill downstream of the core wall, to be done by the contractor at reasonable cost plus a profit of fifteen per cent [HS, EB 8/27]. Resuming construction also required new engineering calculations by Howland and field engineer/inspector C. H. Smith to carry out Kellogg’s plans, new equipment such as a rock crusher, resolution of several grievances on both sides, and the rehiring of labor that was let go during Kellogg’s investigation [HS, 9/5].

On Oct. 29, both the HS and the EB carried alarming stories attributing to dam critic W. R. Patterson and one of his allies, Jos. I. Whittle, a painter by trade, claims that the construction of the dam deviated significantly from Kellogg’s plans and was shoddily carried out. In response, the Governor related the story of the boy who cried wolf!

Unfortunately for those building the dam, as a result of a downpour in late Nov. “a section of flume was washed away... the posts supporting the flume near the center basin and above the koa wall were undermined, and gave way, with the result that that section of the flume collapsed [EB, 11/30].” Another storm in Dec. caused further damage to the works and served as a jumping point for Patterson to again raise safety issues, adding that Kellogg had told him off the record that the dam was put at the wrong site to boot [EB 12/26]. A few days later he declared that “yesterday morning the new flume which they put up instead of the one which was carried away in the preceding storm, was demolished by the water. Practically the entire toe in front of the dam has been carried away, so that now all they have of the dam is the core wall and the supply pipe [EB 12/31].” He also claimed that he had been offered a bribe from the Attorney General’s Department to leave the territory but that he refused to accept it, and promised a “sensational” report to the legislature that was to meet in February.

During Jan. 1907, a lack of sufficient rainfall permitted the contractor to use the more costly carting method of transporting fill material to the site instead of fluming and a request by the Dept. of Public Works to construct a new flume for the hydraulic placement of soil when the rains returned went unheeded. This precipitated a major controversy to which the Governor again responded by threatening to suspend the works and cancel the contract [EB, HS 1/23/1907]. Holloway and Howland, however, prevailed upon him to relent [EB, HS 1/24/1907] because, as the Governor put it, “the very vitals of the dam were exposed and would if further construction were to be stopped, the work as it now stands would be subject to damage by further storms [HS 1/24].” A “heavy rain” on Feb. 2 did little damage but a “record-breaking cloudburst” on Feb. 11 [EB 2/11] took off about 60 yards of the core wall and undermined “a portion of the railroad leading up to Lulumahu valley [HS 2/11].”

Anticipating a request for an appropriation of the additional funds needed to implement the changes to the project, the Legislature appointed a joint House and Senate Committee to investigate the Nu`uanu dam [HS 2/21; EB 2/25]. The joint committee almost immediately decided to bring in yet another expert to help the investigation: James Dix Schuyler agreed to take on the job for a lump sum of $3,000. He was scheduled to arrive from San Francisco by the end of March.

As discussed in various contexts previously (see Sept. 2006), Schuyler was originally brought to Hawai`i in 1889 to work on B. F. Dillingham’s irrigation projects. He came back in 1903 to design the Wahiawa Dam that was completed under Kellogg’s supervision in 1906 (see Jan. 2007).

May 2007:  Schulyer's Report
By: C. S. Papacostas

In a March 1, 1907 message, Gov. G. R. Carter left it up to the Legislature to decide for or against completion of the Dam at Nu`uanu Reservoir No. 4 as recommended by mainland engineer H. C. Kellogg.

He recounted that the contract was signed by the contractor on June 23, 1905, a legislative appropriation was obtained on June 30, 1905, the project started on July 29, and the initial completion date had been set for Oct. 1, 1906. That was, of course, before inspector W. R. Patterson raised the red flag in June 1906.

As I mentioned last month (April 2007), the Legislature had appointed a 6-member joint committee to investigate and that it secured the services of internationally renowned engineer J. D. Schuyler for a lump sum of $3,000.

To expedite matters, the committee scheduled public hearings prior to the engineer’s arrival to receive testimony from James Hewitt (Patterson’s replacement), field engineer Charles H. Smith, Territorial Supt. of Public Works C. S. Holloway and Asst. Supt. and supervising engineer J. H. Howland.

In these forums, committee members raised questions about the competence of S. G. Walker, the original designer, L. M. Whitehouse, the contractor, and his labor force. They also attempted to understand the efficacy of Kellogg’s recommendations, but decided (on the day when the contractor was scheduled to appear before them) to suspend until Schuyler submitted his expert report.

Regarding project costs, Howland testified that the original estimate by the Dept. was $75,000. It was updated by Walker to $85,000 based on his design requirements and was adjusted to $110,000 following the opening of three bids, with the lowest of these translating to $130,000. Expenditures of $125,000 had been incurred to date and an additional $75,000 was needed to finish the work.

Several committee members were overtly disturbed that the Dept. had expended funds from a general water works appropriation (some of it intended for “the outside islands”) to surreptitiously design and initiate the construction of the dam, contrary to the wishes of the Legislature.

Just about ten days before Schuyler’s April 6 arrival from the coast on the Alameda, field engineer Smith tendered his resignation following a dispute with Howland about who had control over labor crew assignments.

Once in town, Schuyler reviewed available documents and related data and carried out extensiveinvestigations, including test pits and trenches. He handed his 33-page typewritten report to the legislative committee on April 23, 1907.

The narrative portion of the report was liberally quoted in the press. It responded to the five interrogatories put to him, that is, whether Walker’s plans and specifications were complete, whether Kellogg’s alterations were being in fact carried out, whether the dam was “proper and safe,” whether it would be safe if completed, and his opinion on the “efficiency of the dam.”

Recognizing that “hindsight is better than foresight,” he concluded that Walker’s “specifications compare favorably with the average run of specifications for such works, and are not so seriously defective, but that the work might have been satisfactory completed... with a proper plant and an adequate organization and system.” However, they could be more specific in certain respects, particularly about the concrete-armored wooden stave effluent and waste pipes piercing the dam. He described this use for reservoir outlets as “quite novel,” and indicated that most contractors would not be sufficiently familiar with it. This, by the way, was the main issue that precipitated the bitter dispute. Nevertheless, Schuyler was reassured that Kellogg’s thicker armor and immersed pipes would remedy the problem. 

A second point he made about Walker’s provisions was that, to him, the plans were overly cautious in prohibiting “borrow pits within the limits of the reservoir.” His tests showed that a sufficient layer of “plastic material” was present to allow the removal of three to four feet of fill for the dam, resulting in cost savings and still guarding against reservoir leakage, but he attributed this to a difference of engineering judgment rather than to a deficiency in the specifications.

He found that Kellogg’s alterations were being followed and concluded that he was “convinced that the work is being properly done, and when completed will be absolutely secure and safe.”

He then explained in depth that, based on the rainfall data he was given, the spillway and flashboards were sufficient to prevent failure by overtopping; the dimensions, materials and the core wall would prevent failure by sliding caused by complete saturation to unstable equilibrium, even if the upstream half of the embankment were not completely compacted; and failure by sloughing away of the outer toe of earth dams generally “can be readily checked by providing for the seepage waters by simple means” such as well and pipe systems, but unlikely in this case given Kellogg’s drainage provision via the rock-fill section.

He also asserted that the inside and outside slopes of 3:1 and 2:1 respectively were “those employed on most of the dams” he knew about.

Under a lengthy section he titled “The Seepage Problem” which he characterized as contentious, Schuyler explained that, in his opinion, water through porous strata exposed in the core wall trench would “percolate out underneath the heavy blanket of soil overlaying without any possible connection with the reservoir,” after backfilling the trench.

He finally concluded with eight recommendations of his own, as follows:

  1. Raise the height of the dam by 10 feet to increase its capacity (and hence its “efficiency and value”) by 60%.
  2. Widen and concrete-line the spillway, doing away with footbridges and movable flashboards.
  3. Move Kellogg’s rock-fill 10 feet from the core wall in the streambed section and ram in the space thus created selected clay, puddled with water to exclude air and prolong the life of the redwood part of the wall.
  4. Do not provide crushed stone drains for the downstream water percolation (see above) as Kellogg had done on the ewa-makai side of the stream.
  5. Install a two-stage centrifugal pump and engine for sluicing purposes.
  6. Eliminate the marginal excavation around the reservoir intended to prevent “growths in shallow waters” as it will be ineffective whenever the reservoir is not filled to capacity.
  7. Widen the 425-foot ditch from the Lulumahu stream to maximize inflow and consider a future project to obtain storage water from Maole Stream (“Mo`ole” in maps I’ve checked) via a pipe and tunnel system.
  8. Push sluicing (as opposed to carting) to the utmost.  The 1907 Legislature appropriated $132,000 in that year’s Loan Fund for the completion of the dam.

June 2007:  Howland's Pump and the Lock-Bar Pipe
By: C. S. Papacostas

The 1907 Hawai`i Legislature’s Loan Bill included a new $132,000 bond authorization to complete the Big Dam and Reservoir No. 4 in Nu`uanu Valley and Act 118 of that year incorporated the City and County of Honolulu to supersede the 1905-established Oahu county government.

Another bill eliminated the position of Asst. Supt. of Public Works that was held by the embattled J. H. Howland who had been at the focal point of major disputes regarding the safety of the project. As I concluded last month (May 2007), J. D. Schuyler, the second mainland expert brought to Honolulu to investigate the dam had just submitted his report to a 6-member joint legislative committee.

The committee’s 5-member majority report recommended canceling the existing contract with L. M. Whitehouse and awarding a new one “to responsible parties, under heavy bond.” Instead, Supt. C. S. Holloway decided to continue the old contract at least until its remaining $31,000 was exhausted. Moreover, he hired Howland, at a reduced salary, this time as supervising engineer on the dam and other projects and also took on Howland’s brother, B. Franklin, whom the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (PCA) dubbed “Howland Junior,” as the government engineer in charge of construction.

On the wider political scene, it became known that U. S. Pres. Theodore Roosevelt intended to replace Gov. Carter with Chief Justice Walter Francis Frear of the Territory’s Supreme Court [Evening Bulletin, EB, 6/25] and this was generally understood to imply the replacement of Holloway whose term as Supt. of Public Works was, at any rate, expiring in November of that year.

It was in this context that what I call “the saga of Howland’s Pump” unraveled:

On July 22, the Hawaiian Star [HS] matter-of-factly reported that only $12,000 remained in the old contract and that “the last part of the new pump for the Nuuanu sluicing arrived by the S. S. Korea last week.” Obtaining such a pump to aid in the hydraulic placement of soil was among Schuyler’s recommendations but, during the following month or so, the PCA launched a vitriolic campaign that purported to be informed by unnamed experts accusing Howland of purchasing the centrifugal pump and its driving gasoline engine without proper authorization during a trip to the coast, backdating documents, and that he had obtained too small a device having confused the meaning of “rated” vs. “practical” capacities. Summarizing its claims, the Sunday Advertiser (SA) declared, “Howland bought a pump of half the needed capacity and botched the installation of it [8/25].”

Furthermore, quoting “a well known pump man,” the PCA said that Howland installed a pipe upside-down thus increasing friction, that he failed to remove a wood block that was inserted by the manufacturer to secure the pump’s valve during transit, and that the material being sluiced from the Ewa side of the dam where the pump was “erroneously” installed contained too much gravel and was unsuitable. Continuing fluming from the Waikiki side of the gulch was deemed acceptable. According to Schuyler’s 1908 book on dams and reservoirs, sluicing on the Waikiki side was aided by “a steam-pump with a capacity of 3.5 second-feet” because “of the lack of sufficient water under gravity head with which to do hydraulic sluicing.”

The other two main dailies’ coverage was much more sedate than the PCA’s, even allowing the government engineers to imply “malicious attempts [EB, 8/24]” by unspecified disgruntled contractors who were “inspired by some motive other than the good of the public [HS, 8/26].”

Nevertheless, the 150 cu. yards eventually sluiced per day via Howland’s pump did not even approach the anticipated 900. To be fair, Schuyler, in his monumental reference on dams, does point out unusual difficulties associated with sluicing Hawaiian soil at the Nuuanu and Waialua dams. He describes it as “a clay soil produced from the decomposition of lava” and “peculiarly resistant to erosion.” Moreover, “ordinary soils can be washed very readily by flowing water over the surface, even without plowing. In this case, however, the peculiar cohesiveness and unctuous character of the soil made it exceedingly difficult to sluice.” This condition was not clearly acknowledged in the local press as a contributing factor to the pump’s underperformance, particularly by the PCA that continued its incessant assault on Howland.

To add insult to injury, just about the time when the pump started to deliver soil steadily and Howland declared, “My lemon is going to turn out to be a peach,” a crack was discovered in the driving engine’s cylinder [e.g., HS, 9/3]! The PCA, once again, blamed Howland and added that his peach was “of the wormy variety,” but Ernest Kopke, Asst. Supt. of the Honolulu Iron Works, diagnosed that it was a manufacturing defect [EB, 9/5]; the Western Gas Engine Company of Los Angeles agreed to replace the cylinder at no cost to the Territory [HS, 9/19], but with unavoidable added delays to the project.

In the mean time, lame duck Gov. Carter refused to issue the bonds authorized by the legislature, declaring “no indebtedness was to be placed upon the Territory during his administration [EB, 8/16].” When Gov. Frear took over the reins on Aug. 15, the funds were close to depletion, the territory’s auditor refused to approve certain dam expenditures, and other problems had surfaced as well.

A contract for a 2-mile lock-bar pipe from the Big Dam to the electric power plant in the vicinity of reservoir No. 1 was one such problem. This contract was awarded to another major contractor, E. J. Lord. Unfortunately, mid-construction, several disputes arose that delayed the pipe laying for several months. The PCA claimed that Howland withheld payment for work done, had not placed orders for needed components such as elbows and other fittings [PCA, 8/21] and that he had failed to obtain an easement on the private Dowsett Estate in the valley resulting in costly realignment [PCA, 8/23].

Lord was quoted in a morning paper to demand Howland’s removal as he “is a man who knows nothing of what he undertakes to oversee and makes up for his ignorance with his officiousness [PCA, 9/21]”. An evening paper on the same day afforded Howland the space for a long in kind rebuttal including “it is impossible to get anything but very unsatisfactory results when we have to deal with contractors indisposed to live up to the agreements which they have made [EB, 9/21].”

Surely this was not the last time that this kind of exchange had been heard!

The lock-bar pipe project was not ready for testing until April of the following year [HS, 4/12/1908]. As we shall see in the next installment, by then, both Holloway and Howland were long gone!

July 2007:  "The Incubus of the Old Contract"

By: C. S. Papacostas

One of Walter F. Frear’s first acts as governor was to visit the Big Nu`uanu Dam site where the recommendations of consultants Kellogg and Schuyler were being carried out.

​At that time, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser reported progress on the valve tower being reconstructed within the reservoir and on the two concrete-clad wood stave pipes piercing the dam. The valve tower was a square 15x15 foot; 70-foot high reinforced concrete structure supported on piles and located about 100 feet from the centerline of the dam’s crest near Station 9+00 [PCA, 8/22/1907]. Material was also being brought by tram from a quarry on the Waikiki side of the dam for the rock fill portion over the streambed below the core wall.

Inside the reservoir, the upstream toe (or heel) was reportedly “hand-placed” and earth fill was being hydraulically placed between it and the core wall. This sluicing operation, however, resulted in a 100-foot square “mud puddle” or “mush pile” near the wall. This problem was later remedied via a trench, overburden pressure, and by a rapid de-watering method of sluicing [Evening Bulletin, EB, 2/3/1908].

From several accounts, I deduced that a temporary un-reinforced “waste” tunnel was added parallel to and about 160 feet to the left of the stave pipes, looking downstream, to act as a drainage conduit during construction. It was later labeled “contractor’s tunnel” on renderings of plan views that were prepared by other investigators over the years.

Mid-September, a portion of the mauka levee (or dike) that formed the dam sluicing basin gave way, sending some already placed material “through the drain pipe and the safety tunnel” and causing a portion of the core wall to tilt out of plumb [PCA, 9/14]. The PCA described this incident as a major disaster, whereas the government, via the Hawaiian Star [HS, 9/18], dismissed it as a minor inconvenience.

In early Sept. 1907, the governor dispatched A. J. Campbell, the Territory’s Treasurer, to New York to sell public works bonds that had been approved by the Legislature earlier that year. Some observers were anxious that Pres. Theodore Roosevelt’s national “trust busting policies” might have an adverse effect on Wall Street and on the Territory’s bond issue [HS, 9/6].

In the meantime, Ernest A. Mott-Smith, the new Secretary of the Territory, negotiated an agreement with contractor L. M. Whitehouse that terminated his contract on Oct. 31, allowing new specifications to be drawn and a new bidding process to commence without lengthy legal entanglements. The three major Honolulu dailies printed the agreement word for word and the PCA headline read INCUBUS OF OLD CONTRACT RAISED.

On the administrative side, Supt. C. S. Howland and engineer J. H. Howland resigned before the end of their terms. Following wild speculations regarding their replacements, gubernatorial appointees Marston Campbell and Charles H. Kluegel took office on the first day of November.

Campbell, a consulting engineer with von Hamm-Young Co., came to Hawai`i in “1899 in charge of Cotton Bros contracting [PCA 10/31/1907]” from his position as City Engineer of Oakland, Ca. Since then, he held several private and public sector jobs and a short stint as Asst. Supt. in 1903. Kluegel had “a long record of successful engineering in these islands,” including the position of chief engineer for B. F. Dillingham’s Oahu Railroad & Land Co. [EB 11/1;PCA 11/2].

Holloway stayed in Hawai`i, but Howland returned to the mainland, not missing the chance on his way east to declare to the “San Francisco Call” that it was the “missionaries” who drove him out of Hawai`i [PCA, 12/25/1907]!

Guiding the preparation of new specs was among Kluegel’s first tasks [EB, 12/2]. Besides local distribution, copies were sent to San Francisco where “quite a number of contractors have been in to see them [EB, 1/28/1908].” Campbell commented that they agreed “with all the drainage features recommended by Kellogg and Schuyler. But there is a 1-to-2 earth and rock embankment instead of the original 1-to-1 embankment of rock.” Moreover, the rock fill “does not extend to the crest of the dam, as contemplated by the original specifications, but only to about 15 feet above the bed of the stream [EB, 1/7/1908].” 

Parenthetically, a 1993 safety inspection by Ernest K. Hirata & Assoc. discerned the rock fill portion to rise “from approximately 27 feet between Station 9+00 and 10+00, to approximately 5 feet near Station 11+00.” Within that stretch, Hirata reported the rock slope to be 1:1 rather than the prevailing overall 2:1. Back in 1908, the Dept. of Public Works solicited bids for two designs, one with a concrete and the other with a stone revetment on the inside 3:1 slope, but it also asked for unit prices to gain the flexibility of making design changes prior to awarding the contract.

L.M. Whitehouse was again the low bidder, this time among a group of four local concerns. That he enjoyed the special advantage of already being deployed at the site did not escape notice, but he was declared the winner anyway. The losers were W. H. Hoogs & Co., Wilson & Chapin, and C. S. Holloway, the recently resigned Supt. of Public Works!

Describing his next steps, Whitehouse explained that he would use Howland’s infamous pump (see last month, June 2007) and three others just like it “to lift water in two stages for sluicing from the Waikiki side” along with “a hydraulicking plant” to loosen the soil. Rock would be obtained from two quarries, also on the Waikiki side. Under favorable conditions, he predicted completion within a year [PCA, 2/8].

In May 1908, dam expert Schuyler found his way to the site on his return to Los Angeles from a consulting engagement in Japan. He couldn’t find space on “the only English speaking train” on the Trans-Siberian railroad and he opted instead for ocean travel via Hawai`i rather than “taking second class passage and being mixed up with unsavory classes of Russians [HS, 5/23].”

At the dam site, he asserted “Mr. Campbell took us all over the work and I have not a criticism to offer. The sluicing will be very rapid as soon as there is water enough.”

Unfortunately, a drought of unprecedented proportions in the memory of all concerned again retarded progress. Almost a year later, the returning steady rains caused the waste-tunnel to collapse [PCA, 1/15/1909]. Fixed with reinforced concrete [HS, 4/12], it served its purpose until Dec. when it was finally plugged by solid reinforced concrete in the middle and compacted soil at its ends [HS, 12/17].

To make a long story short, the dam did not become fully operational until July 1, 1910, four years and three months after its originally scheduled completion date.


By: C. S. Papacostas

Last month (July 2007), I spoke about the acceptance of the completed Nu`uanu Dam and Reservoir No. 4 by the Territory on July 1, 1910. 
The project was approximately five years in the making. Owing to work stoppages due to weather conditions, engineering disputes and contract difficulties, however, only about two years were intermittently devoted to actual  construction.

In his Annual Report issued in 1911, Territorial Supt. of Public Works Marston Campbell disclosed a total project cost of $298,563.86, four times the initial estimate by the Department. He justified the cost by comparison to that of the recently completed private “Wahiawa Dam, constructed by corporate labor which had the advantage of using non-citizen and Japanese labor.”

Among the reported “essential details” of the Nu`uanu Dam were a maximum height above the stream bed of 79 ft., a length on crest of 2497 ft., a width on crest of 10 ft., and a total width on base of 336 ft.

Following Engineer J. D. Schuyler’s recommendation (see May 2007), the crest elevation was at 1038 ft. above mean sea level, or 10 feet higher than the original design of Civil Engineer S. G. Walker. This placed the crest higher than the elevation of the adjacent Pali Road (now Highway) on the west end of the facility. As an aside, it appears that modifications to the original Walker plans by Schuyler and, later, by others retained the original stationing along the crest beyond, but not prior, to 2+00, a fact that apparently has caused some confusion as to the location of 0+00 and variations in the subsequently reported length at crest to as little as 2000 feet.

During the next few years, the condition of the dam became but one, albeit major, consideration in an explosion of developments associated with Honolulu’s water supply. Examples include a first territory-wide “hydrographic survey” resulting from a 1909 cooperative agreement with the U.S. Geologic Survey; and the passage of Act 50 of 1913 which effected the transfer of the water and sewer works to the City and County (C&C) of Honolulu on June 30, 1914 at a cost of $1,142,031 payable in 30-year annuities commencing in 1916. Accepting the transfer from Gov. Lucius E. Pinkham and Supt. John W. Caldwell were Mayor Joseph J. Fern in his first of two split terms and C&C Engineer William A. Wall.

It is noteworthy that Pinkham had a technical background having come to Hawai`i in 1892 to build a coal-handling plant for the Oahu Railway & Land (OR&L) Co. He then left the islands only to come back and work as an artesian-well driller for various plantations, among other jobs. Incidentally, in an unrelated search effort, I have discovered in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser [PCA, 8/20/1907] the full text of a long paper he delivered to the Engineering Association on street construction and underground installation of public utilities, replete with typical drawings in his hand. He is also most commonly known for being the prime mover of the Ala Wai Canal in Waikiki.

As a consequence of the renewed emphasis on water supply, several Territorial, C&C, and joint commissions and committees were formed, either partially or totally consisting of engineers residing in Hawai`i. Thus the genesis of an O`ahu Loan Fund Commission, including the Territorial Supt. of Public Works, that had approval power over the expenditure of water and sewer bonds by the city; a Territorial Water Commission, chaired by USGS-employed Supt. of Hydrography G. K. Larrison; and a Honolulu Water Commission, appointed in 1915 by new Mayor John C. Lane and chaired by Lorrin A. Thurston (of Hawaiian Kingdom overthrow fame and owner of the PCA beginning in 1895).

Chief Engineer for the Honolulu Commission was none other than the “ubiquitous,” as I dubbed him for his constant appearances in various roles since his arrival from New Mexico in 1898, James Townsend Taylor, who was also a member of a five-engineer committee evaluating the feasibility of projects to be funded by the Loan Commission, including the Nu’uanu Dam. The other four members were Chair Francis B. “Drydock” Smith, the engineer on the first Pearl Harbor drydock; B. Franklin Howard, the resident engineer during the last phase of the dam’s construction; Ed. J. Lord, a major contractor with the Lord-Young Co.; and Carl B. Andrews, engineer for OR&L, future University of Hawaii Professor and second ASCE-Hawaii President.

Curiously, Taylor was in a position of passing judgment on behalf of the Loan Fund Commission on projects he had designed for the Honolulu Water Commission! To his credit, he did resign from the former [PCA, 5/11/1916] and was replaced by Marston Campbell who, having finished his public service as Supt. of Public Works, became associated with the Honolulu Iron Works Co.

Among the technical people that also played significant roles in our story were Engineer Jorgen Jorgensen, whose Hawai`i projects included the monumental Lower Hamakua Ditch on the Big Island and the Waiahole Ditch Irrigation System conveying water from windward to central O`ahu through the Ko`olau Mountains; T. F. Sedgwick, variously described either as “hydrographer” or “statistician,” and author of a history of Honolulu’s Water Works from 1847 to 1913; and engineer Fred G. Kirchhoff who accompanied the water and sewer works department from the Territory to the C&C. In the present context, Jorgensen was a member of the Honolulu Water Commission and Sedgwick of the Territory’s equivalent.

One of the projects addressed by Taylor was the augmentation of the inflows into Reservoir No. 4 via the “Maole” Ditch from the nearby Hillebrand Glen that I described to some extent in June 2006. This project was consistent with a suggestion made by Engineer Schuyler in his 1907 report (see May 2007). The PCA indicated that the Honolulu Water Commission had earlier appointed a special committee consisting of Jorgensen, Taylor and Sedgwick “to investigate the question of seepage in the No. 2 reservoir” but the committee also reported on the possibility of the “Maole” project and the need to investigate the “seepage from Nuuanu Reservoir No. 4. [11/16/1915]”

Larrison took measurements in December 1915, and summarized his findings in a letter to Sedgwick which has been preserved in a 1931 report by Joseph B. Lippincott, yet another outside expert. Sedgwick performed his own calculations [PCA, 5/21/1916] as did, according to the Star-Bulletin for one, the Governor [SB, 4/27/1916]. The conclusions of the last two were in stark contrast with the findings of a joint study by Jorgensen and Taylor [PCA, 2/10/1916].

Details to follow.

September 2007:  Leakage and Seepage

By: C. S. Papacostas

Three years after the completion of the earth and rock fill dam at Nu`uanu Reservoir No. 4, the Star-Bulletin [SB] reported a “bacteriological examination” of the surface water system in response to increasing concerns about contamination [SB 5/13/1913].

Almost as an aside, the article also added “it is to be asserted that because of the ill-kept condition of the water dam, 800,000 gallons a day are escaping, due to a broken ‘toe’ of the dam.” The issue of seepage and leakage resurfaced in late 1915 in connection with proposals to augment the supply of water to the dam. Being strongly opposed to this proposal, Gov. Lucius E. Pinkham claimed, among other things, that leakage through the dam might have compromised its structural integrity. The governor was quoted retrospectively by the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (PCA) to have said “when a dam is leaking an average of three million, eight hundred thousand gallons daily, as is that of reservoir No. 4, it is unsafe [PCA 7/19/1916].” 

The difference between this estimate of losses and that in the earlier SB article, gives a taste of the wide range of opinion offered by participants in the debate who attempted to calculate the hydrologic balance in the valley in the absence of long-term reliable data. For example, a Feb. 1916 joint report by engineers Jorgen Jorgensen and James T. Taylor, that was based on measurements over only seven days, concluded that despite the fact that “little leakage and seepage does occur... the water reappears a few hundred feet below the dam and is conserved in the lower reservoirs [PCA 2/10/1916].”

In this milieu, there was general agreement that, at least part of the “broken toe” problem was associated with the condition of the concrete-encased wooden effluent and washout pipes piercing the dam and that repairs were “being made under the personal supervision of Mr. [Fred G.] Kirchoff [also reported as Kirchhoff], the engineer of the City & County Water Works department [PCA 5/9/1916].” In its annual report for 1916, Territorial Public Works stated “this division, in cooperation with the Honolulu Water Commission, determined that the principal source of leakage from Reservoir No. 4 in the Upper Nuuanu Valley is due to a break in the outlet pipe.” Lorrin A. Thurston, the chair of the Honolulu Commission on Water Resources declared, “The alleged leakage of the reservoir was through a leak in the pipe from the reservoir and not the bank of the reservoir itself [PCA 5/11/1916].” As far as the durability of the wooden pipes was concerned, Engineer J. D. Schuyler’s 1907 assessment proved to be off the mark.

To settle the dispute, a 5-person committee of local engineers was appointed to investigate the structural integrity of the dam and the various sources of leakage (see Aug. 2007). Following an initial inspection of the structure, this committee reported, “leaks are pronounced but from examination of the photos taken during construction, and the plans of the structure, it was decided there was no fault in the work but that the flow of water probably was caused from springs under the dam [PCA 5/17/1916].” The committee also received testimony from Kirchoff on the status of repairs and from George Moore who was in charge of the valve tower.

Moore revealed that besides flows through the concrete casing, a badly installed valve could not be closed tightly enough to shut off the flow through the pipe!

Additional problems discussed included a slough on the Waikiki side of the dam, bubbling springs, and free water on the Ewa side below [read, “downstream of”] the dam. Moore informed the committee that these “had been in existence ever since Nuuanu dam has been in existence [5/24/1916].”

While the committee was looking into the matter, a series of long letters debating the structural soundness of the dam appeared in the press.

Both sides cited Schuyler’s 1907 report liberally but reached opposing conclusions: Raising the specter of serious undermining of the structure was Territorial hydrologist T. F. Sedgwick, whereas strongly disagreeing was James T. Taylor, who, as I explained last month (Aug. 2007), played several roles in the process. Both the SB and the PCA printed the full report of the engineers in July. It presented as “undisputed facts” the successful impounding of water for about eight years without signs of physical deterioration. Considered “true beyond question within the realm of the personal knowledge of some but not all of the members” were the presence of springs in the valley bottom above, on and below the dam prior to construction; adequate provision for the outflow of this water; a concrete core wall founded on “solid rock” and watertight; effluent and washout pipes “enclosed in the same casing of concrete for a considerable part of their length” and separately for the rest; a washout pipe in good condition and alignment but an effluent pipe above it that “has suffered a distortion to an elliptical section at a point about ten feet below (i.e., downstream of) the core wall.”

Among the recommendations were the removal of the damaged pipe and the plastering of the conduit’s interior and to avoid “an effort to trace underground flow by means of excavations, driven wells, or other methods which would disturb the material of the dam would be a dangerous proceeding.” Instead, they recommended a monitoring program to establish the relationship between water depths in the reservoir and various flows, whether currently seen or not.

The governor’s reaction was that “little that is new is contained in the report and the dam still leaks a large amount of water. There is a large amount of public and private property that would suffer severely to say nothing as to possible loss of life, should the dam give away. As question of damages might arise against the Territory and city, I have therefore taken steps to inform my views as to the prudence of assuming the dam is safe.”

​October 2007:  Lippincott's Turn

By: C. S. Papacostas

As we saw last month (Sept. 2007), in 1916 almost everybody in Honolulu agreed that the wooden effluent pipe piercing the Dam at Nu`uanu Reservoir No. 4 was crushed. During the next 15 years or so, significant leakage was reported but very little corrective action occurred.

In 1929, a report by the Honolulu Sewer and Water Commission to the Territorial Legislature presented extensive measurements, analyses and performance curves that had been accumulated during this period, and stated, “75% of the water impounded by the reservoir No. 4 has been lost by percolation and evaporation.” A photograph taken on Dec. 14, 1927, shows the dam’s fifth overflow at the spillway with a trapezoidal wall supporting the crest at one end, and another taken in June 16, 1928, showed the reservoir practically empty.

Also in 1929, the Legislature created the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS) to consolidate certain city and county water supply functions with the Commission whose engineer, Frederick Ohrt, became the Board’s first and renowned manager. A 1911 graduate of Cornell, he was, according to the Honolulu Advertiser [HA 6/2/1925], the resident engineer on the Mamora Railroad in Brazil before coming to Hawai`i in 1913 to work on the Waiahole tunnel and then in a series of private and public positions including that of city and county engineer.

On the evening of Nov. 18, 1930, a flood caused by intense rainfall surged over the 100-ft spillway of the smaller dam at Reservoir No. 2 while No. 4 was filling up rapidly. Fearing a catastrophic collapse, Ohrt requested HA’s radio station KGU to give a warning message and “hundreds of residents moved downtown and reserved rooms in hotels for the night” causing a traffic jam in the process [HA 11/19].

According to both the HA and the Star-Bulletin [HA; SB 11/20], the spillway at No.2 had been lowered by a foot after a major storm a few months earlier but this action did not prevent the dam from overtopping. The embankment held but not without major damage to its crest and spillway, and to Mamalohoa Road and private properties below.

On Nov. 21, the SB reported that Ohrt had hired “Frederick E. Harvey of the firm of Wright, Harvey & Wright, surveyors and civil engineers, to determine whether No. 2 constitutes a menace and also look into the safety factors of reservoir No. 4.” As an added precaution, the BWS also engaged Los Angeles engineer Joseph B. Lippincott to examine the two structures as well.

Lippincott’s association with Hawai`i began in 1911 when he and his assistant, engineer C. Worthen, were hired by the Oahu Sugar Company to review the design of the Waiahole tunnel system [Hawaiian Star 8/9/1911] on which, as we saw above, Ohrt also became an engineer.

For tracking a copy of Lippincott’s 1931 report, I am indebted to Chester Lao, BWS hydrologist, who sent me a large excerpt and gave me a copy of a short history of No. 4 that he presented at a 1988 Conference on Dam Safety in Honolulu.

To his full account, Lippincott attached data going as far back as the “soil soundings” of the original designer S. G. Walker in 1904. He also acknowledged the help of the BWS, engineers associated with the construction of the dam and the private contractor, Louis M. Whitehouse, who in 1931 was the city and county engineer.

Early in his report, Lippincott forcibly clarified that “what has been defined as bedrock in the original plans consists of small isolated bodies of basalt which often rest on porous deposits of ash tuff or cinders through which leakage from the reservoir occurs” but, citing rating curves calibrated in 1917 and 1929, concluded that “the total leakage has not materially changed in the past 13 years.” Some of the observed flows he attributed to rock drains constructed by engineer Kellogg (see May 2007) and certain others to the shallow depth of the wooden core wall at the either end of the dam.

A physical inspection of the outlet pipe by Ohrt and four BWS employees, who crawled through it, revealed earlier patching of certain sections but also extensive areas of damage of various types.

To take advantage of the structure’s potential value, he recommended several improvements that included plugging the pipe conduit and making a new outlet for a single concrete pipe; raising the slumped top of the dam by 1.9 feet to its original height; widening the crest from 10 feet to a standard 20 feet; increasing the upstream slope from 3:1 to 4:1; excavating of a 10-foot deep trench under the new heel of the dam and driving steel sheet piling of half inch web thickness to 40 feet or more for the length of the dam; and backfilling the trench with selected tamped earth. These actions were intended to reduce but not eliminate the leakage under the dam.

He explained in some detail that he chose sheet piling over a more controllable and longerlasting deep cut-off trench on the basis of cost, construction difficulty during wet conditions, and concomitant delays. He reasoned that by the end of the 50-year useful life of the steel, “the bed of the reservoir would be partly covered with fine silt that would reduce seepage losses,” anyway.

Lippincott’s cost estimate for the improvements including the new fill, sheet piling, rip rap on the new face, the new outlet, contingencies and engineering was $274,585. Funding was approved by the BWS without delay and $250,000 were appropriated by the 1931 Legislature. BWS borings and other investigations were made during the 1931-32 biennial period and the construction contract was awarded on June 16, 1932.

On Feb. 24, 1934, the HA reported “plans had been completed yesterday for Mayor George F. Wright to turn the valve sealing the reservoir and definitely declaring that the Hawaiian Contracting Company had finished its job for the board of water supply to practically reconstruct it within the legislative appropriation of $250,000.” The reported actual cost was $255,735.32.

Project 37-W entailed the improvements mentioned above but also a new concrete intake tower, a bridge access structure from the tower to the dam’s crest, and improvements to the spillway.

​And what about the No. 2 reservoir? According to the 1930-32 BWS Annual Reports, “Project 35-W: Clearing Nuuanu No. 2 Reservoir with Enlargement of Spillway and Relocation of Nuuanu Pali Road” was completed in two phases on Dec. 14, 1931 “by the same contractor,” Walker & Olund who submitted the low of six bids at $54,745 to be shared by the BWS for the dam per Lippincott’s recommendations, and the county supervisors for the road realignment [SB 3/24/1931]. The concrete spillway of No.2 near a short bridge on the “Old” Pali Road of today is the habitat of a flock of noisy waterfowl!

Thus ended the last major reconstruction of the Nu`uanu dams.

December 2007:  Readers Write II

By: C. S. Papacostas

Two months ago (Oct. 2007), I talked about the major reconstruction of the Dam at Nu`uanu Reservoir No. 4 which was completed in Feb. 1934 following the recommendations of consulting engineer J. B. Lippincott.

Clearly, this was not the end of the structure’s story, but I decided to make an end of my narrative at this juncture as it was running long, since Dec. 2005 in fact. Nevertheless, before moving on, I feel the need to put a few final touches to the story.

First, the addition of about 80,000 cubic yards of soil to modify the upstream slope from 3:1 to 4:1 was done by rolling rather than by hydraulic fill which was the principal method employed earlier for the construction of the earthen part of the main structure. According to a 1933 report of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply (BWS), “the specifications require that the embankment be built up of 6-inch layers of selected earth thoroughly compacted by rolling with a heavilyweighted ‘sheep’s-foot’ roller.” As for the material’s quality, “the composition of the soil obtained from the borrow pit is satisfactory except that its saturation exceeds the 29.5 per cent, which analyses have shown would be most satisfactory in this case.” A news story by Alex MacDonald [SB, 8/26/33], clarified that a steam shovel was used to load a dozen trucks at the borrow pit that was located on the mountainside about 100 yards from the dam and that water board engineer Colby Tarleton was in charge of the project.

Second, Lippincott’s initial drawings showed a proposed “effluent pipe” on the west (“ewa”) side of the original streambed. Subsequent drawings, however, place the outlet on the east (“waikiki”) side, aligned with the old temporary discharge tunnel that had been plugged with concrete after the completion of the earlier slope. Photographs of this outlet reveal a rectangular, concrete-lined tunnel containing what appears to be a cast-iron effluent pipe.

Third, cleaning of the reservoir bed took advantage of funds from the Great Depression era Civil Works Administration (CWA) which was created in Nov. 1933 as part of the “New Deal” to provide temporary emergency work opportunities to the unemployed. In 1934, the CWA was merged into the better-known Work Progress Administration (WPA).

Fourth, it was good to hear again from Chester Lao, the BWS Hydrologist-Geologist, who informed me among other things: “The comments by Ohrt about the sheet pile have come true. Seventeen feet of fill has accumulated over the lowermost gate. I think over 9 decades, compaction of the hydraulic fill has occurred, once the reason for sagging and crushing of the wooden outlet pipe in the early stages.

Achieving optimum compaction with hydraulic fill in wet tropical conditions is a problem. The downstream face has been cleared of vegetation and the upstream face will be done next.” The comment about the sheet piles came from Lippincott’s report but a transposed sentence in my October article gave Chester the wrong impression. Chester also talked to me about some of his ideas to control the depth of the water in the reservoir, the discussion of which, no matter how tempting, would open up another long series of articles about the Dam!

Finally, by 1934 Reservoir No. 4 had become, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, “primarily a flood control structure. Originally, it was built for the storage of domestic water... but since 1919 it has not been used for domestic storage and not for the generation of hydro-electric power since 1929 [SB, 2/1/1934].” Plans for a large filtering plan near Reservoir No. 1 by the Oahu County Club never materialized. Instead, stocked with fish, the reservoir was first opened to fishermen on a trial basis on July 5, 1969 [SB, 6/9/1969].

And now that I, at least temporarily, have disposed of my coverage of the Dam, I must move on to other historical subjects of general interest. Guiding me in this choice are the numerous messages I’ve received from readers concerning matters great and small. Here is a short preview:

In April 2006, Karl Cheng of the Pacific Division, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC PAC) asked:

“Professor: I was wondering if you have looked up historical information, such as photos of construction, concreting, frame works etc. for Pearl Harbor shipyard Drydock #1. I am particularly interested in the structural elements of drydock construction.”

It turns out that I had some information about the facility because its planning and construction, including a spectacular collapse, coincided with the Nu`uanu Dam. It also had a connection with the Panama Canal. Some additional research on my part provided more details about this fascinating story, which I shared with Karl and his consultant Mike Yamasaki of the URS Corp. (now with the City & County).

On October, 2006, Stanley Solamillo of the Maui County Planning Dept., wrote: 

“I am having difficulty finding out the full name of an engineer who was hired by Hawaiian Pineapple Company to lay out Lanai City in 1923. His surname is Root, but I cannot find his first or middle names anywhere. Do you know anyone who would know the full name of this engineer?”

Some obscure documents I found revealed engineer Root’s first name, but also the impressive and progressive concepts he incorporated in his design of Lanai City. After I supplied the information to Stanley, he came back with: 

“Mahalo for supplying the name of the engineer who designed Lanai City. I am preparing a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places for the Pioneer Mill Office in Lahaina. It was built in 1910 under Hackfeld & Company and may be the first board-formed concrete building on the island, predating Paia Mill Offices (1911), HC&S Offices (1913), and the Lahaina Store (1916). The contractor was W.J. Moody; R. Renton Hind was the consulting engineer for Hackfeld & Company but I know nothing about him...”

R. Renton Hind, I found out, belonged to the “`Aina Haina” (“Land of Hind’s”) clan and had an international career ranging from the Philippines to the Mainland U.S. 

Also in Oct. 2006, John Young of Belt Collins inquired:

“We have a project in Hawaii Kai, at the back of Kamilonui Valley adjacent to and mauka of the existing farm lots. We see concrete tunnels on the site (see photos), which we believe were once a batch plant used by Kaiser. Would you have any suggestions on where we could start our research to determine the past use of the concrete tunnels.”

For this one, I had to do some original research that, although not contradicting John’s idea, added to the intrigue of Henry Kaiser’s dealings in Hawai`i.

In Dec. 2006, ASCE Past President Richard “Dick” Cox sent me an excerpt from Alexander & Baldwin’s 1988 publication “Ampersand” (the symbol that links the two names!) with a note: “Here is an article on the Wainiha power plant and the power line... included is the notice of the 100th anniversary of the hydro.”

This information, with its emphasis on some of the people involved, would nicely supplement the material I included in the May 2005 article on the private hydroelectric plant.

In July 2007, Brent Hatherill of JWM Productions, LLC, wrote:

“Hi I’m writing from a television program called Digging for the Truth for the History Channel after having noticed your History and Heritage section of the ASCE’s Hawaii website. I’m in the process of researching the discovery of the Kalanikupule warrior remains during the construction of Old Pali Rd. and was curious if you might be able to help point me in the right direction.”

The answer, of course, was yes, but I had to do some additional digging myself.

​These are some of the many leads from our readers. Keep an eye open for the details to come.

History & Heritage 2007

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