Hawaii Gets D+ on Its First Infrastructure Report Card

The biggest culprit? Increased extreme flooding.

Hawaii has miles of scenic coastal roads. According to the ASCE’s report on infrastructure in Hawaii, those roads are one of the things most at risk due to sea level rise. (Image courtesy of TripAdvisor.)

On March 7th, the Hawai’ian branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave its state a D+ on infrastructure quality: the exact same grade that the U.S. received on the ASCE’s national 2017 infrastructure report card. The ASCE reported that most of the state’s infrastructure was in poor to fair condition, and blamed aging infrastructure, lack of funding, and a worrying increase in flooding.

“The first Report Card for Hawai’i’s Infrastructure showed us that a large majority of our infrastructure systems were built decades ago and are reaching the end of their service lives,” said Steven Doo, co chair of the report card committee.

This is the first year the Hawai’ian branch of the ASCE has offered this report card, which the organization cites as “a public service to citizens and policymakers.” Like the national report it was inspired by, the state report graded on separate categories of infrastructure to generate the overall score. Bridges topped the list with a C+; solid waste took second place with a C; and aviation, coastal areas and energy all got a C-. A grade down, drinking water, schools, wastewater and roads all received a D+, dams got a D, and stormwater received the worst grade with a D-.

Unsurprisingly, stormwater is one of the biggest concerns for the civil engineers behind the list. They cite an increase in extreme flooding—from sources like storm surges, hurricanes, tsunamis and simple sea level rise—as a problem in sweeping pollutants into water resources, at a far higher rater than current stormwater infrastructure is capable of handling. An EPA report from last year found that

88 of the state’s 108 marine water bodies did not meet water quality standards.

Dams are also a somewhat predictable pick for the bottom of the list. A 2018 report from financial firm 24/7 Wall Street, drawing on U.S. Coast Guard data, said that 93 percent of Hawai’i’s dams have high-hazard potential. Dams have also held a special place in the public consciousness since the Ka Loko collapse in 2006, which killed seven people on Kauai’s North Shore.

But the news isn’t all bad: the state ranked better than the national average in the categories of energy and aviation. Hawai’i has been notable for its success in solar power generation, leading the nation in residential solar power per household. Necessity has been the mother of invention in a state with energy costs more than twice the national average, and Hawai’i hopes to generate 100 percent of its electricity with renewable sources by 2045.

One of the top recommendations is that the state fund strategies to address sea level rise, which the organization says is likely to displace 20,000 residents and flood 40 miles of coastal roads by 2100.

“We hope our local and state leaders will take the Report Card’s recommendations into consideration, prioritize investment in the state’s infrastructure, and make the changes needed to make the Aloha State ready for the challenges of the next several decades,” Doo said.