A Bridge Under Troubled Water
Proposed Kawela Bridge replacement, Abby Mayer nomination questioned by community.
By Léo Azambuja
The Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled a project which would replace Kawela Bridge, saying it is structurally deficient, and that a new and taller bridge would reduce flooding in the area. If the project gets the green light, it will begin around the end of 2008, and last for 15 months. However, area residents do not believe the project will bring much of a solution.
The Governor’s Molokai Community Advisory Council met with the DOT and local residents, in order to get community input regarding the proposed project and other issues. The meeting happened last week Tuesday at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands conference room.
Kawela residents still remember when they could walk under the bridge without having to duck. Today they would have to crawl. Debris coming from the mountain have filled Kawela stream. Every time there are heavy rains, flooding on adjacent lands is inevitable, leading to property loss or damage.
Bill and Frances Feeter have endured many floods, and even lost a car in one of them. “I’m not convinced it’s going to get the job done,” Mr. Feeter said.
The DOT contracted Kai Hawaii to design and build the project. The company’s director of infrastructure and forensic engineering, Michael Hunneman, said Kai Hawaii originally sought to end the area’s flooding. However, Hunneman admitted that the “project is not going to solve flooding.” The company’s engineers realized that without cleaning the debris in the river, it will be impossible to end the flooding, according to him.
Roxanne French’s family has lived in the area for generations. She said that unless the DOT is willing to come to the area, take a look around and get input from the residents, no project will solve flooding. “The engineers don’t live in that area,” French said. “They don’t have knowledge of how that area is.”
Glenn Yasui, DOT administrator, said that the agency can only do so much to alleviate the problem. Some problem areas that contribute to the flooding fall outside the DOT’s jurisdiction.
Mr. Feeter criticized the DOT’s explanation, and offered a solution. “It has got to be a coordinated effort, not just one agency,” he said, suggesting that the DOT work together with the DLNR and landowners in order to find a solution.
The meeting also served for the community to give input on other issues.
Homesteader Walter Ritte, and residents Teri Waros and Barn Wenkruger testified against Abby Mayer’s nomination to become the new director of the State Office of Planning (OP).
Governor Linda Lingle and Mayer have expressed support to a proposed land reclassification that would allow the La`au Point development. The OP does not decide on the issue, but makes recommendations to the Land Use Commission.
Waros said Mayer has had a very active role in the community as the president of the Enterprise Community (EC). “It’s very suspicious that he has been appointed to rule on a project he has been active with,” she said, questioning the governor’s intentions for nominating Mayer.
Ritte said he did not believe Lingle was ill-intentioned. But during Mayer’s guidance in the EC, “the whole thing imploded,” Ritte said. “He doesn’t have the skills.”
Wenkruger gave a passionate testimony, and excused himself soon afterwards for being a “grumpy old man.” He said he has seen development change the face of the small community he grew up in California, and that he believes Molokai should not suffer the same fate.
Council member Kammy Purdy said testimonies against Mayer’s appointment do not have weight with the governor. Her and other council members said the best thing to do is to testify during Mayer’s hearing confirmation, because the governor has already made a decision. The advisory council advises the governor on undecided issues.
Ritte acknowledged this, but he said that Lingle must get the message that the Molokai community does not support Mayer’s nomination. “I want to make sure she knows this appointment is not popular on Molokai.”
Mrs. Feeter testified in behalf of the “Friends of the Library” group. She said that the library can only hold 66 people during the group’s special events. “We need more space,” she said. “We have no real meeting place.”
Purdy said council members will gather all testimonies, and make recommendations to the governor. Council members Bob Granger and Weldon Wichman also attended the meeting. The remaining members, Jersula Manaba and Chairwoman Janice Kalanihuia, were unable to attend.
The Governor’s Advisory Council will meet again in March 11 in the DHHL conference room at 3 p.m.