County takes over project to clean Kilauea River

Bette Midler
Image by Alan Light via Flickr

County takes over project to clean Kilauea River
Paul C. Curtis – The Garden Island | Posted: Friday, August 13, 2010 11:45 pm

LIHU”˜E – Faced with the loss of $4 million in federal funds for cleanup of Kilauea River and Wailapa Stream, county officials have assumed sponsorship of the project.

Until the county stepped up and received an extension, funds would have been lost at the end of the current federal fiscal year, or on Sept. 30, said Beth Tokioka, executive assistant to Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr.

Carvalho asked for and received a one-year extension, after state Department of Land and Natural Resources officials in April contacted the county and asked the county to assume sponsorship of the project as DLNR leaders doubted they’d be able to expend the funds before next month’s expiration date, Tokioka said in an e-mail.

The project is to remove debris and sediment from Kilauea River and Wailapa Stream in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ka Loko Reservoir dam in March 2006. The earthen dam breach sent tons of water downstream, claimed seven lives and did millions of dollars in property damage. Several of the bodies were never found.

“The restoration of this watershed is very important to the well-being of our community, and we couldn’t allow the funds to lapse without pushing for the extension,” said Carvalho.

He credited U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawai”˜i, and DLNR staff for assisting in the successful transition of the project and retention of the funding.

The project was funded through the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service in 2007, with DLNR the original lead agency.

Kaua”˜i received $4 million for the cleanup, which required a local match of 25 percent, said Tokioka. The expiration date on the funding was originally Sept. 30, 2010.

Carvalho sought and received a one-year extension of the expiration date and, with concurrence of the County Council, agreed to assume sponsorship of the project in June.

The 25-percent match is being satisfied by in-kind survey and design services provided by the state (roughly $630,000) and a cash match from the county of approximately $400,000, said Tokioka. The $400,000 is in the current fiscal-year county budget, she said.

In 2006 and 2007, the county completed an initial cleanup of debris utilizing $1.2 million in state and Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, said Tokioka.

The initial project targeted the cleanup of the huge amount of debris that littered the banks along Wailapa Stream, which posed an immediate safety and health threat to residents, Tokioka said.

County Engineer Donald Fujimoto said success of the project will rest on the cooperation of landowners adjacent to the stream and the execution of rights of entry with each owner in order to conduct the work.

“We’re hopeful that all of the necessary legal paperwork can be completed in a timely manner so that we can get to work as soon as possible,” said Fujimoto.

Permitting, design and construction management for the project is being contracted through the engineering firm (EarthTech) AECOM. The construction contract will be awarded to Earthworks Pacific, said Tokioka.

The county plans to conduct public-outreach meetings in October to describe the scope of work and timeline for completion, and to answer questions the community may have about the project, said Tokioka.

Attorney Max Graham, of the Lihu”˜e firm Belles Graham Proudfoot Wilson & Chun, represents two of the affected landowners, including Bette Midler, and said he has agreed to help the county encourage other landowners to participate in the cleanup project.

“We’re pleased and proud of the county for taking over the project and think the cleanup of the river is something that would be really good for the community and for the Kilauea valley environment and the river environment,” said Graham, whom like Mike Belles and Jonathan Chun of his firm are former deputy county attorneys.

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