Because given the testimony presented at the last Council meeting, a lot of folks are not pleased with the county's plan to spend $1.9 million ripping out the stone wall along the highway, removing 10 trees and placing concrete slabs that are 10 feet long, 9 feet wide and 12 to 18 inches thick on the mauka edge of an eroding beach.
The county is all set to go on Jan. 11, unless the administration can be convinced otherwise.
Those testifying in opposition to the plan raised cultural, environmental, fiscal and common sense objections.
“We stand here before you today as the people from there,” said Sherri Yokotake, who recounted a family geneology that includes births at Hikina`akala. “There's still families around who are actually stewards of the property being discussed.”
“To say they did this legally is one thing,” Sherri said, referencing administration comments that all the permits are in hand. “But for us, it's immoral. I'm not sure what I'm asking of you folks except to recognize we are totally against this. We are totally against anything going through that area.”
And by that she means nothing on the beach, and nothing linking the Path to Hikina`akala or the other heiau around the Aston Aloha Beach Hotel and Lydgate Park.
James Alalem warned the county that “darkness will fall if you continue this unpononess, this unrighteousness.” He said the federal Section 106 cultural consultations were “just formalities” because government officials already had their minds made up. “Our people's cries are not being heard.”
Councilman Mel Rapozo, who characterized the comments made by Hawaiians as "powerful," asked, "How do we ignore that testimony?" He said people would not support disturbing areas that Native Americans consider sacred, yet some seem to think it's OK to intrude on sacred Hawaiian sites.
Carl Berg, Carl Imparato and others suggested the county work with the state DOT to place the Path on the existing asphalt. Though it may mean narrowing the Path, Berg pointed out that the bike lanes on the new stretch of Kaumualii Highway in Lihue are only a few feet wide.
Others, such as Judy Dalton and KipuKai, questioned why the Path can't use the road that runs alongside the canal behind Coco Palms. The road already exists, so no burials would be disturbed. And as Judy pointed out, that route would be a lot more pleasant than having the Path run alongside Kuhio Highway, which will eventually be four lanes.
Caren Diamond and others raised the issue of whether it makes fiscal sense, or common sense, to proceed with the $1.9 million project as planned. “If you see a beach that's heavily eroding, why would you put public infrastructure there?" Caren asked.
Caren and others are concerned that a concrete Path, even if built in moveable slabs, will hasten erosion of Wailua beach. “That is a concrete structure along the shoreline,” Caren said. “That is a seawall. What is not known is how it will affect the beach structure.”
And if it accelerates erosion, as sea walls tend to do, the state could end up putting in an even bigger seawall to protect the highway, resulting in the total loss of Wailua Beach.
Thomas Noyes of Kauai Path was resistant to any of the proposed changes. “Things are in place to proceed based on the best knowledge and expertise that can be brought to bear on the project and it's time to move forward with the plans and they exist,” he said.
Still, he did say that the Path could be narrowed to the width of a sidewalk, though "then it wouldn't be a multiuse path and you'd have crashes, bicyclists running into other path users."
County Parks Director Lenny Rapozo also acknowledged the Path could be placed on the mauka side of the existing highway for the Wailua Beach segment, but that would require Path users to cross the highway in two places, raising “safety concerns.”
Caren said it's unclear what conditions would prompt the county to remove the Path. “It doesn't look like it's that temporary,” she said, noting that shoreline rules define "temporary" as something that lasts six months.
Both Mel and KipuKai questioned whether the county's SMA permit for the project is still valid, and if the project violates shoreline setback requirements. “Would we allow a developer to do what we are doing, in terms of not following our own rules?" KipuKai asked.
Council Chairman Jay Furfaro said he would be scheduling the issue for another meeting to address those questions and other concerns that were raised. Though the Council has no authority over money or permits for that particular stretch, Mel did suggest the Council had some leverage because it controls the release of funding for other sections of the Path.
In the meantime, the clock is ticking.....