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Wharf Construction To Begin

Corrected version.

Kaunakakai wharf construction was reviewed for the planning comission last week, with new features such as an enhanced waiting room, increased bathroom facilities and improved traffic flow. The Molokai Planning Commission must again review the project at a future meeting before they will vote on whether or not to support the construction.

The $5 million project is a joint effort by Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) Harbors Division. While construction will stimulate the economy and create jobs, the extensive and costly project had sparked concern among residents and Molokai Planning Commission members alike.

The Federal Transit Administration has allocated $4.3 million towards the cost, while the remaining funds coming from state taxes, according to project managers. 

While wharf construction will make facilities safer and create a better overall appearance, community members are concerned.

Molokai Planning Commissioner Steve Chaikin wondered about the need for additional bathrooms when restroom facilities are already present at the wharf.
“We recognized there’s another close bathroom. [But] there’s only one toilet in each one,” according to a DLNR official. “We are looking at the ferry users. There is an additional need for capacity,”.

One Molokai resident, Darlene Johns, was concerned the new facilities might raise the price of ferry tickets. But because the ferry company has nothing to do with the changes, rates would not be affected, according to project officials.

New Pipes

In addition to wharf improvements, DLNR, in partnership with the Department of Water Supply, has announced they will install two new water lines. The decades-old lines will be aligned with current fire safety standards.

Currently, a four-inch water line runs along the causeway, which supplies water to bathroom facilities at the wharf. DLNR project leaders Carty Chang and Brian Lock attended the Molokai Planning Commission meeting last week to inform commissioners and the public of plans for the project. 

The current saltwater fire protection system for the pier has corroded beyond repair, according to DLNR. To meet demands for fire safety, a 12-inch water line will be built below water level. The four-inch water line along Kaunakakai Place will also be replaced with an eight-inch line.

The water line along the causeway will be built 36 inches underground. Because of concerns about the reef while digging the trench for the new water line, DLNR said an archeological monitor will be present while digging.

While the building of new water lines is alarming to some, Molokai veterans have been waiting a long time for a larger waterline to be built for the site of their future center on Kaunakakai Place.

“I think that our part of the community is underserved and it [water line] needs to be upgraded,” said veteran Art Parr.

At a community meeting last Wednesday night, the construction project team answered community questions and concerns.

“The bottom line is there are always concerns,” said Maui County Council Chair Danny Mateo, who attended the meeting. “The harbor has been an important component on Molokai, yet it hasn’t seen any improvements in years. That’s what makes the wheels of our economy turn. Everybody wants to take money to improve their harbors in the state.”

Mateo added that the ferry does raise Molokai’s economy through tourism, and it is “just better when you have good facilities to use.”

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