Commuters surprised by state work on Highway 30 at Olowalu
OLOWALU – The Lahaina News started getting calls last week on Thursday about construction on Highway 30 south of Olowalu.
Aunty Patty Nishiyama of Na Kupuna O Maui asked, “What’s going on?
“They’re putting up those barriers again. The lanes are so small, and traffic is backed up. It looks dangerous; are we losing more access to the ocean?”
The Lahaina native is a commuter along the vital two-lane state corridor – the only road in and out of West Maui.
She was incredulous: “One day the beach is there; the next it’s not.”
The Hawaiian elder wasn’t alone in asking questions; there were queries from others as well.
“What’s the scope of work? Are the barriers permanent? Don’t they know already that hardening the shoreline doesn’t work? Did they get a permit? How much is this going to cost? How much beach access have we lost? How long is this going to take? Why start now, in December?”
But the big puzzle is, why didn’t they tell us?
All good questions and legitimate, so the Lahaina News called the state Department of Transportation to get answers. With none forthcoming, Sen. Roz Baker stepped in and promptly wrote to department personnel.
“I would appreciate your assistance to respond to their (Lahaina News) request for information, so my constituents on the Westside, who rely on the Lahaina News for information, can be informed about the repairs currently being undertaken along Honoapi’ilani Highway.
“Please provide me,” Baker wrote in her e-mail request, “by close of business tomorrow, Friday, December 4, with the information requested and any other relevant information that relates to this project – scope, timing/duration, contractor, cost, do the repairs impede access, were any permits required, etc. – so that I may respond appropriately to the Lahaina News and my constituents in next week’s issue of the paper.”
The DOT did not respond before deadline, leaving another question hanging.
If construction has commenced, why is it so difficult to get a copy of the contract, its terms and scope of work? It is public information; is it not?
Mark Deakos is the president, founder, treasurer and chief scientist of the local nonprofit Hawaii Association of Marine Education and Research (HAMER).
He’s the go-to guy with questions and concerns about that part of the island, both on and offshore. He cares as much as the rest of West Maui about the impact of more seawalls on the health of our delicate marine ecosystem; it’s his milieu.
His experiences have taught him the importance of protecting aquatic life from ecological or manmade threats.
Like any credible scientist, Deakos was hesitant about making a statement without knowing the facts.
“Hard to make any comments,” he advised, “without hearing from DOT about what they are planning. I guess that is one of the issues – lack of communication from DOT,” he observed.
He volunteered, however, to check out the situation.
“It’s definitely further south than mile marker 14 and along a rocky shoreline with a previous eroded seawall.
“They have an excavator,” his observations continued, “so I’m guessing they are not just doing jersey barriers; most likely replacing the old seawall.
“So it appears that the popular mile marker 14 won’t be affected (except by accelerated erosion from either side of the new seawall).”
Deakos inspected offshore conditions.
“I snorkeled about six transect lines from the shoreline out to about 400 meters offshore,” he explained. “Most of the coral on the inshore (side) is dead and covered in sediment and debris; but, as you get offshore, there is some very nice coral structure and quite healthy surprisingly (not as much bleaching as I would have expected). It will be interesting to know what they plan to do, but I feel a little better that its a pre-existing seawall, although it would be nice to eventually have the old seawall removed as well as a lot of those boulders. Based on the sand just offshore, I bet a nice beach would return here if nature is allowed to do its thing.”
Next week, the state responds.