Monday, February 12, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, February 12, 2001

Cable impact study at Poka'i Bay challenged

By James Gonser
Advertiser Leeward Bureau

WAIANAE — TGN Hawaii Cable Systems has filed a draft environmental assessment detailing its plans to install fiber optic cable landings at Pokai Bay Beach Park and at Kahe Point Beach Park, but some area residents says the assessment does not address important environmental, social and cultural aspects of the project.

The 56-page report, filed with the state office of environmental quality control, concludes the project will not have a significant adverse effect upon the environment, but Wai
anae Coast Neighborhood Board chairwoman Cynthia Rezentes says there are many gaps in the report.

She said the report does not address the effect on coral reefs outside Pokai Bay, the potential for encountering Hawaiian burial sites and the effect of highway delays during construction. She compared the illustrations in the document to "stick drawings" for their lack of detail.

"I think they are going to get eaten alive on how poorly this (environmental assessment) is put together," Rezentes said. "There are no detailed drawings on how they plan to come through the reef area or where in the park they are proposing to come through."

According to the assessment, once the cable is brought ashore, it will be buried in a four-feet-deep trench running along Farrington Highway from both Kahe and Pokai to its planned relay station near Maili Elementary School. Lane closures are expected during construction.

The company hopes to start work on the $15 million project in July and complete it by December.

Rezentes said there is no mention in the assessment of coordination with either the Board of Water Supply, which is also planning to dig up the highway to install a 24-inch water main, or with the city about its master plan for Pokai Bay.

"The Pokai Bay Beach Park master plan is on hold because there is a major drainage problem in the whole area and until they get the drainage fixed they are not going to do anything," Rezentes said. "They say they are coming into a parking lot. Well, we are removing some of the parking in there and adding new ones farther back. I don’t know where they are coming in because the drawings are so bad."

Issues addressed but not included

Chester Koga of R.M. Towell Corp., who prepared the assessment for TGN Hawaii, said many of those issues have been addressed but were not included in the document.

Koga said he has coordinated the project with the Board of Water Supply, Hawaiian Electric and the city.

"It was an oversight," Koga said. "The document was actually published before we got all that information. It is not like we were unaware of what they were up to."

Koga said he will make the first public presentation on the project at the next neighborhood board meeting March 6, but Rezentes said the deadline for public comment on the project is set for March 10 and she would like that deadline extended.

"It was never the intention to withhold information," Koga said. "There will also be an official public hearing in the community, possibly as early as March, set up by the city Department of Planning and Permitting."

Koga said the cable would be leading edge fiber optic technology linking Hawaii to Japan, Guam and the Mainland.

"They are going to bring to Hawaii the next generation of telecommunications facilities," Koga said. "It will leap us into the 21st century. The opportunity will be there for Hawaii to take advantage of, but they could just as well bypass us. Other vendors have in fact done that. Both the governor and the mayor support this type of business."

Community activist William Aila was also very critical of the assessment.

"There are very few specifics," he said. "They don’t say exactly where the cable is going to come up. They don’t describe how they are going to do the trench system. There is not enough cultural information. They don’t even understand that if you come up through the beach at Pokai, you are coming up through an old fishing village, and there are burials in the sand. "

Koga said information about potential burial sites was not included because there could be vandalism if the locations were made public. Koga said his experts have determined that the area is clear of grave sites.

'Not done their homework'

Aila said there are existing cable lines in Makaha and if this project is allowed, it should be placed alongside them.

"There are no other cables at Pokai right now." Aila said. "They are saying this is the only place it can go and we are saying there are lots of other cables coming up in Makaha and the area has been disturbed already. They really haven’t done their homework."

But Koga said landing a cable at Makaha would add million of dollars to the cost of the project.

Rezentes said dealing with all these issues and expecting construction to be completed by December is unrealistic.

Kurt Mitchell of Kober/Hanssen/Mitchell Architects gave a presentation of the planned relay station at the neighborhood board meeting last week. The building is not discussed in the assessment, Koga said, because it needs only a minor conditional use permit.

Mitchell said the one-story building will be 127 feet wide by 300 feet long and have 15,000 square feet under roof. Up to six people will work at the facility, which will be open 24 hours a day.

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