Waikiki Natatorium shore will tell if pool can go

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
By Crystal Kua

Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s administration is exploring alternate uses for the decaying Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, and one option might include getting rid of its controversial saltwater pool.

Yesterday, the City Council Budget Committee approved an agreement between the city and the Army Corps of Engineers to split the $300,000 cost to study the shoreline surrounding the memorial to World War I veterans. The study is expected to be completed in early 2008.

“The results will be incorporated into a bigger planning report that will then give us direction on what to do with the facility,” said Clifford Lau, facilities design chief with the city Department of Design and Construction. “Part of the report will need to address what occurred in the past and what’s possible in the future.”

A final Council vote on the agreement is slated for Dec. 13.

Hannemann has not been a fan of fully restoring the Natatorium, which would include keeping the saltwater pool. He has said it would be better to keep the memorial’s arch to pay tribute to the veterans and expand the surrounding beach.

Former Mayor Jeremy Harris moved to restore the nearly 80-year-old concrete structure along with the pool, but legal obstacles stopped work on the pool and halted the entire restoration.

As one of his first acts as mayor, Hannemann stopped $6.1 million in emergency repairs on the Natatorium in January 2005.

The latest study includes analysis of the shore between Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor.

“It’s computer modeling of waves and currents. So there’s a circulation model and a wave transformation model,” said Tom Smith, a coastal engineer with the Corps of Engineers.

“The goal is to not just to restore the beach, but also to stabilize it so we don’t lose the beach,” Army Corps engineer Milton Yoshimoto said.

Yoshimoto said the corps has about half of the necessary money, with the other half slated to be budgeted next year.

“The Natatorium study would be a high priority for funding,” he said.

The Corps of Engineers study would be forwarded to a planning consultant that the city has hired to come up with a final report.

Lau said the study could lead to several alternatives, including not taking any action, relocating the memorial walls and partial or complete removal of the pool.

“I can’t tell you at this time that that is the exact solution, because one aspect is that there’s existing beaches there that we need to preserve,” Lau said.

Lau said the Natatorium restrooms that were closed because of corrosion and crumbling concrete have been reopened after work was done to correct the problems.