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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, October 18, 2002

Push for rock-slide project accelerates

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

WAIMANALO — Following this week's rock slide at Makapu'u Point, a Waimanalo business has backed away from a request to delay a project to prevent debris from falling onto the highway and is urging its immediate start.

Wayne Nielsen, general manager for Sea Life Park, the largest private employer in Waimanalo, said he has always taken a proactive stance on the project to install protective steel mesh over the cliffs, wanting it done sooner rather than later. When the discussion came up as to the best time, the park asked for winter rather than summer months, Nielsen said.

That has all changed with the latest rock slide and the renewed threat to human life, he said.

"My desire is to start the project tomorrow, not in February," Nielsen said. "This is about safety of people and there is no higher priority."

Yesterday the state Department of Transportation said it would begin the $1.3 million project in February at the request of Sea Life Park to minimize sales losses.

But when a truckload of rock and debris slid from the cliffs overlooking Makapu'u Beach onto Kalaniana'ole Highway at 2:25 Tuesday morning, Nielsen said he no longer wants to wait.

No injuries or damages were reported as a result of the rock slide, but Wilson Ho, Waimanalo Neighborhood Board chairman, said he's more fearful now than ever.

"I never worried about the rocks until (Tuesday)," said Ho, who drives along that stretch of highway every day to go to work in Hawai'i Kai. "It always was just a rock or two on the road. Tuesday was a barrage. Now I worry."

Ho wants the state to start the project immediately and fears if it doesn't start before the end of the governor's term, the project will not get done.

"He'll be gone and we don't know what the next person will do," he said.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.