March 2019 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Hawaii State Capitol.
Much of the building was designed to represent Hawaii. The reflecting ponds surrounding it were meant to represent the Pacific Ocean.
Chad Blair from our partners at Civil Beat thinks the pools are a far cry from the Pacific Ocean.
Chad Blair: At times the pools are so murky that it's like the Kapalama Canal in Kalihi. Sometimes it smells, and there have been leaks that have damaged the electrical system and AC in the Capitol. The water is pumped in from brackish wells. But there's no circulation or filters, so the pools cost one hundred thousand dollars annually to clean.
Paula Akana: Are there fish?
Chad Blair: There have been fish, including Tilapia. They were supposed to help eat the algae, but that didn't work out so well. Papio have been seen too. Just last year there were concerns because a lot of dead fish were spotted floating in the pools. One Capitol employee says he swears he's seen a 3-foot Barracuda.
Paula Akana: The problems with the pools aren't new. And lawmakers have introduced bills to find a solution?
Chad Blair: There was a bill deferred just this week that called for spending one hundred thousand dollars to study how to rehabilitate and renovate the pools. It was decided there was no need, because the Department of Accounting and General Services was given $1.2 million last year to come up with a plan and design. That process is underway.
Paula Akana: The Capitol is in the state and national register of historic places. What can be done to the pools?
Chad Blair: Sen. Mike Gabbard said he's been told by experts that there may be some flexibility for a redesign as long as the space reflects or symbolizes water. Maybe that could be done with artistic tiles and water-themed sculptures, although we don't want the Bellagio in Vegas.
Paula Akana: Can it be done in time of Anniversary?
Chad Blair: Lawmakers are pushing another bill that would give a hundred grand or so to the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts to pay for celebrations to last from next month to March 2019. It's not clear whether the reflecting pool will be fixed by then, but maybe the 50th anniversary could serve as an inspiration to get it done. It's been a long time coming.