I wasn’t expecting much from the sky this morning, given that it’d been rainy and blustery all night, and dark was the operative word when Koko and I set out walking. But then the sun rose, casting a sheet of gold over the Giant, infusing the gray with a wash of pink and forming a rainbow that flung itself up into the ether.
And then it all faded back to gray again.
The wind was brisk, sending the clouds scurrying to the north and rushing through the trees with that deep hooooooo sound it makes, turning the leaves all backward on the java plum and camphor. Stopped to snack at guava alley, a section of the road lined with ripe waiawi, and ran into my neighbor Andy, who was also picking the yellow fruit.
“Happy Thanksgiving,” he said, because we hadn’t seen each other since the day before that holiday, when I headed out to Colorado to visit my Mom. As I told Andy, she’s moving out of her apartment and into an assisted living facility, a decision that had her feeling excited about meeting new people and making a change.
Even at 84, you can make a fresh start — if you’re willing.
A fresh load of soil was delivered into the sea during yesterday’s storm, in large part because the county is unwilling to get serious about grading runoff, leaving Kauai with a severe case of “ring around the island.”
The situation prompted Don Heacock, our state aquatic biologist, to call me and say he’s been recommending for years that Kauai follow the lead of Washington state and ban grading during the winter months. But the county continues to ignore that suggestion, much to the detriment of our reefs, marine animals and coastal water quality.
I couldn’t help but wonder how the ocean below the Running Waters resort project — now-stalled, and unfortunately, aptly named — fared during the downpour, given that it has so much bare earth exposed on steep slopes. Last time I flew in to Lihue, I couldn’t understand why the county had allowed them to grade such a large area at once.
And if you take a look at Dennis Fujimoto’s photos on The Garden Island website, you’ll see that Kukuiula harbor was seriously muddied and fouled by runoff, too. It seems a likely culprit is all that bare earth at A&B’s Kukuiula project, which has also slowed way down now that luxury digs ain’t selling like they used to.
But in the article that accompanied Dennis’ photos, Don was the only one who commented about the cause of all that muddy water, which prompted the state Health Department to issue a “'brown water warning' yesterday advising the public, statewide, to 'stay out of flood waters (brown water) that may contain pollutants from overflowing cesspools, sewer manholes, animal wastes, dead animals, pesticides, chemicals and associated flood debris.'”
Meanwhile, we have Sue Kanoho, the head of Kauai’s visitors bureau, telling us that we should treat all our tourists with extra TLC because their numbers are dwindling:
"We should all be very aware that the visitors we have now are critical to us. Let’s be sure we're doing the best we can because they are our best advertising. When people have the choice to go wherever they want in the world and their dollar is extra special to them, we need to remember how critical competition (with other destinations) is."
So the tourists arrive and can’t even get in the water or use the beach because the projects that are being built to accommodate more tourists — the ones who haven’t actually yet spent a penny to come here — are polluting the ocean with their runoff.
Don’t county and state officials see the giant disconnect here?
Every now and then, the EPA does get involved, such as leveling a $63,000 fine against Bali Hai Villas in Princeville after finding the company had “failed to install adequate control measures to prevent soil and sediment-filled stormwater from running off the site” while building the condos there.
“It’s unfortunate that for whatever reason they neglected to have their pollution controls in place,” said Dean Higuchi, an EPA spokesman for Hawai‘i. “We went out there once before and found similar violations. We tried to work with them.”
Maybe the fines need to be larger; the company had to pay $15,000 after it was cited for similar violations in 2004.
Ironically, Bali Hai offers its guests a program intended to educate them about the marine environment — while simultaneously polluting it. It's yet another in a series of giant disconnects between what we say and what we do.