One hundred and thirty-six-feet high
Four hundred and sixty-one-feet long
Five hundred and eighty-feet thick
Twenty-six-thousand-cubic yards of stone backing
One hundred and forty-one-thousand-cubic yards of earth filling
A reservoir seven-miles long
Capacity 2,500,000,000 gallons
Cost three hundred thousand dollars
(Pacific Commercial Advertiser, February 15, 1906)
“The greatest irrigation proposition ever undertaken in the Hawaiian Islands is the Wahiawa dam, which will soon be under course of construction in the Wahiawa valley, some miles from Honolulu. … It will also be used for irrigating fruit lands belonging to a colony of settlers in the immediate vicinity of the dam and for generating electric power.”
“This dam will conserve in a great natural reservoir basin over two and a half billion gallons of water which will be used chiefly to irrigate the upper cane lands of the Waialua Agricultural Company’s great sugar plantation, eight miles away.” (Louisiana Planter, September 19, 1904)
Wahiawa is located in Central Oʻahu on the Leilehua Plateau, the central plain between the Waiʻanae and Koʻolau mountain ranges.
Following Wahiawa’s initial Euro-American settlement, a period of intense agricultural interest in the pineapple industry ensued. The Hawai’i Agricultural Research Station established on the outskirts of Honolulu further supported the agricultural pursuits of pineapple and sugar in the region.
Early agricultural activities significantly modified the landscape in Wahiawa. In 1900, the Wahiawa Water Company was created through an agreement between Waialua Agricultural Company, the government, and stockholders of the colony cooperative.
Under the direction of engineer Albert Andrew Wilson, residents constructed a system of irrigation flumes, ditches, and tunnels to carry water from the northern branch of the Kaukonahua Stream to agricultural tracts.
A subsequent, more substantial phase of the irrigation project involved the damning of the two forks of the Kaukonahua Stream to develop the Wahiawa Reservoir in 1906.
The reservoir, later known as Lake Wilson, is the largest water impoundment in the state and has effectively constrained residential development in Wahiawa to its geographic boundaries.
Originally constructed by the Waialua Sugar Company, the reservoir would help to fuel other important agricultural enterprises as well. The successful irrigation facilitated by the reservoir, resulted in over half of the Wahiawa tract becoming cultivated land, with pineapple quickly emerging as the colony’s most valuable crop. (DLNR)
Construction began in 1903 and was completed in 1905. The logistics of the construction were challenging. Railroad track was laid for bringing in the boulders for the rock fill portion from as far away as 6-miles. A high trestle was built over the dam site, and the rocks were dropped into place. The long drop compacted them so they held in place.
“It has taken six years since the preliminary work was begun and two years of continuous work to complete the great enterprise. Now it is finished, and five million gallons of water a day are being delivered to the Waialua Plantation, and although this is dry weather, eighteen feet of water have accumulated in the reservoir during the last two weeks.”
“It will double the available cane area of the Waialua Plantation, and place it in the same class with Ewa, with an annual output of thirty thousand tons and upwards.”
“What that tonnage means is shown by comparing it with twelve thousand tons, the entire output of Hawaii in 11875, the year before the Reciprocity Treaty went into operation. (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, February 15, 1906)
“The outlet from the reservoir extends through four miles of ditch and tunnel until it issues onto the cane lands at the elevation above sea level of seven hundred and thirty feet, or one hundred and eighty feet higher than any fields now cultivated.”
“This brings twelve thousand acres of cane land under a gravity flow of water and doubles the area available for cultivation, without increasing the present pumping plant. (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, February 15, 1906)
“The only defect we have found in the design or construction of the dam is in the outlet valve which is 48 inches in diameter.
There is a pressure of about thirty tons against it when the reservoir is full. This great weight makes it difficult to open and shut the gate when necessary to increase or diminish the quantity of water delivered to the plantation.”
“An extension of the 48 inch outlet pipe, with two smaller gates, has been ordered, and the material is now at the dam. This will put the water under perfect control and permit, at some future time, the installation of turbine wheels for the development of water power.”
“The construction of this dam and the ditches by which the water is delivered to all parts of the plantation, will complete the development of the plantation and make all the land below the 700 ft. level available for cane cultivation.” (Hawaiian Star, February 28, 1907)
“But there are those who know all these facts and a hundred more, who have tirelessly schemed and worked and financed the great work to success. These men are (Leonard Grant) LG Kellogg, the manager of the company; (Hiram Clay) HC Kellogg, CE, of Santa Anna, Cal., who prepared the plans and personally superintended the construction of the dam, and …”
“… (Edward Davies) ED Tenney, President of the Water Company and of the Waialua Company, and (William Whitmore) WW Goodale, manager of the Waialua Agricultural Company which has financed the enterprise.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, February 15, 1906)
Since 1957, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, through a cooperative agreement with Castle & Cooke, Inc., has managed Wahiawa Reservoir as a public fishing area. In 1968, a 14-foot wide concrete boat launching ramp and parking area were constructed by the State for public use.
The reservoir is stocked with both large and small mouth bass, bluegill sunfish, Channel catfish, Threadfin shad, tilapia, peacock bass, oscar, Chinese catfish, and carp. It is the responsibility of DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources to manage these gamefish populations within the reservoir for recreational fishing purposes.
Albert Andrew Wilson (water manager, engineer and contractor) was born at Pescadero, San Mateo County on March 22, 1874; he was son of James and Susan (Matilda) Wilson.
Following arrival in Hawaii, in September 1897, he was engaged with engineering corps of Oahu Railway & Land Co. on Waialua and Kahuku extensions for two years.
From 1899-1915, he was in contracting business, during which time he was associated with various projects, such as railroad, ditch and dam building (he later served as manager of Wahiawa Water Works.) He was general superintendent of construction of the Waiāhole Ditch tunnel. On October 1, 1909 he married Nellie Beatrice Baker of Hilo; they had one child, James. (Men of Hawaii)