Electric Upgrades for Kalaupapa
By Jack Kiyonaga, Reporter
Residents of Kalaupapa will be receiving much needed improvements to their electrical distribution system.
Superintendent of the Kalaupapa National Historic Park, Nancy Holman, explained that the Kalaupapa community faces problems with the electric system at least once every couple of months.
“The components of the system are pretty old,” said Holman, “lots of exposure to the elements down here.”
The last time the Kalaupapa electric system was upgraded was in 1969.
“Any project at Kalaupapa is challenging due to logistical restraints such as barge access, transport and lodging for workers, environmental impacts such as salt air, high winds and pests all deteriorate materials quickly, sensitivity for impacts to patient residents, protection of cultural and natural resources, cost… just to name a few,” explained Holman. “It is a tricky and complex issue.”
These electrical disruptions challenge the already delicate nature of serving the settlement’s 70 to 80 state and federal employees, along with the patient residents who call Kalaupapa home.
“This project rehabilitates critical infrastructure that is critical at Kalaupapa. Without a safe and reliable way to distribute power, patient residents could not live at Kalaupapa, and state and federal operations would be limited,” said Holman.
The work itself is scheduled to begin in Aug. 2025 and will take about a year to complete. The job will include replacing 110 power poles, 56 pole mounted light fixtures, 39,000 linear feet of aboveground cable, and two pad-mounted and 23 pole-mounted transformers. The project will require installing 20 poles along the settlement’s Kamehameha Street to reduce potential impacts on cultural resources and documented archeological sites and facilitate access for pole maintenance, according to Holman.
The nature of working at Kalaupapa means maintaining an equilibrium between preservation and functionality for the National Parks Service.
“This project balances historical features with modernization of a critical utility in a place that is challenging to access — any system put in place must be reliable, and easy to maintain and repair with minimal resources while maintaining the historical nature of the site,” explained Holman.
The project’s draft environmental assessment is currently open to public comment.
Molokai residents have until July 24 to offer feedback on the project, which can be found on the Kalaupapa National Historic Park website under “Current Park Projects.”