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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 16, 2010

Kauai path will be shifted from sacred land

By Michael Levine
The Garden Island

LIHU‘E — Responding to outrage from the Native Hawaiian community over the placement of the county’s multi-use path on the “sacred sands” of Wailua Beach, Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. on Friday announced that the proposed alignment will be shifted to the right-of-way on the makai side of Kuhio Highway.

“As a result of all of the input we’ve received, I’ve decided to move forward on a makai alignment, keeping the path within the Kuhi‘o Highway right-of-way,” Carvalho told a number of Hawaiian groups Friday, according to a county press release. “We are hopeful that this adjustment addresses many of the concerns raised by the community.”

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs sent a letter to the county earlier this month expressing “conditional support” for the new alignment.

“OHA recognizes that conceptually the intent behind the county’s latest modification ... is avoidance of grounds sacred to our Native Hawaiian constituents — collectively, the sands makai of and the cache of sites mauka of your relocated alignment,” OHA Administrator Clyde Namuo wrote in a Jan. 4 letter to Haigh.

The change will not require a new Environmental Assessment, the mayor said, because the alignment is still within the parameters of the existing EA findings and the completed process related to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

According to the release, the EA, which was completed in 2007 and recommended a makai alignment for the path, states that, “through the mid-section of Wailua Beach Park, the path will be as far inland as possible, running parallel to Kuhi‘o Highway and on the makai side of a low rock wall.”

In the new design, the existing rock wall will be removed and a replacement barrier will be constructed as an integral part of Ke Ala Hele Makalae, the release states.

By aligning the path within the highway right-of-way, the county can construct the path of 18-inch-deep concrete, shallower than that of the adjacent roadway.

“There will be no additional drilling or ‘augers’ required,” Building Division Superintendent Doug Haigh said in the release. He noted that an archaeological site survey will be conducted prior to construction.

The Federal Highways Administration is conducting a re-evaluation of the EA and is seeking more information relative to how this adjustment may impact any historic properties along the route.

Before announcing the change to the public, Carvalho met with representatives of Hui Na Makaiwa o Wailuanuiahoano, Ka‘ie‘ie Foundation, Halau Kanikapahuolohi‘au and Papa Ola Lokahi, along with several Hawaiian cultural practitioners. Representatives of federal, state and county agencies and OHA were also in attendance.

The meeting was a follow-up to a series of meetings that began in June when a number of groups came to the mayor and expressed concerns about the makai alignment of the Lydgate-to-Kapa‘a section. Following a four-hour public meeting on Dec. 7, where dozens of residents expressed their feelings on the proposed Wailua Beach alignment, numerous meetings have been held between the governmental agencies and OHA to determine the best way to proceed, the county press release states.

While OHA expressed conditional satisfaction with the change, its optimism was tempered.

“OHA cannot over-estimate the sacredness or significance encompassing this entire Wailua complex for which even Kuhio Highway itself is in some respects a blemish — albeit one of commerce and practicality — dissecting the richly kapu landscape,” Namuo’s letter states.

Other opponents of the makai route were also not easily assuaged.

“We’re glad that the mayor has recognized the concern from the community, it’s a really wonderful first step of moving it away, but it’s still on the beach,” Judy Dalton said Friday evening.

“As long as it’s still on the beach, we feel that the alternate route described in the environmental assessment as one of the three alternatives ... on the canal behind Coco Palms would be the least impactful, environmentally and culturally,” Dalton said.

She said she had been told by the state Department of Transportation’s Highways Division that the path will not be on the concrete shoulder but will still be on the sand dunes.

Attempts to reach a representative of DOT-Highways and Hui Na Makaiwa o Wailuanuiahoano by telephone Friday evening were unsuccessful as of press time.

Comments for the FHWA review may be submitted through Jan. 25 to the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation via e-mail at csimao@kauai.gov or by regular mail at 4444 Rice Street, Suite 105, Lihu‘e, HI 96766.

For more information on the new alignment, visit the county’s Web site, www.kauai.gov.