Concerns at Keauhou Bay


A lineal descendant of Keauhou Bay is questioning a Kamehameha Investment Corp. project there.

KIC officials, at a meeting earlier this month, discussed a number of projects, including work on a sewer main line that was exposed during the March 2011 tsunami. LeeAnn Leslie, whose family has ties to the bay, and who has worked with archaeologists around the bay, said the project looks more like preventative work than emergency repairs.

Further, Leslie and Jonathan Droge said Friday, they don’t understand why KIC would be allowed to do the work under a 2011 supplementary emergency proclamation by the governor.

“Nowhere does it say it’s for preventative measures for a private company, two and a half years later,” Leslie said.

She and Droge examined the original and supplementary proclamation carefully, they said, even looking up each Hawaii Revised Statute cited in the documents. Nowhere did they find authorization for KIC to take on the work it plans to do there.

KIC officials at the May 9 meeting called the work preventative, Droge said.

A Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate spokesman emailed a statement on the situation Friday afternoon.

“KIC’s sewer line work at Keauhou Bay is directly related to tsunami damage,” spokesman Kekoa Paulsen wrote. “The sewer line is a regulated public utility facility that was exposed and damaged by the March 11, 2011, tsunami. In order to protect against a rupture and or possible damage by users of the bay or further wave action, it needs to be repaired and replaced. It is currently constructed of deteriorating ductile iron pipe. As part of the repair, it will be replaced with polyethylene pipe.”

Droge and Leslie found a letter from a former planning director noting permission for KIC to do work on several other parcels surrounding the bay, but not the particular parcel in the next phase of work. They said they spoke with Deputy Planning Director Bobby Command about the situation.

Command said he asked KIC what legal authorization they had to proceed with the work. He took the documentation KIC officials provided — a 2012 letter from then Planning Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd and Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s supplemental emergency proclamation — to the county’s Corporation Counsel office. An attorney there told him KIC was correct, Command said.

“I understand what (Leslie and Droge) are saying, but I have a document from the governor that takes away my authority to regulate what (KIC) does,” Command said. “I would rather they repair (the sewer line) than have it burst and pollute the bay.”

Droge and Leslie were also concerned that no archaeological monitor would stay on-site to ensure the multitude of artifacts and remains in the area were not disturbed. Paulsen said Friday a monitor would be there for the duration of the project.

“Such discoveries are considered unlikely since the repair work will be focused in the same trenches and locations where existing sewer lines and other utilities have already been placed,” Paulsen wrote. “If discoveries are made, however, KIC and (Kamehameha Schools) are committed to following all applicable state and county laws — in addition to our own internal protocols — for the proper and respectful treatment of any items inadvertently disturbed.”

Paulsen said a previously documented cave — one Leslie and Droge were also worried about — will not be disturbed by the construction.

Command said a Department of Public Works inspector will also make periodic checks of the work.

Droge said KIC officials told him the work could begin as soon as Friday, but it had not yet started. He said he was particularly worried that previously untouched ground would be disturbed, which opens the area up for additional development.

“It’s a classic case of ask for forgiveness, rather than permission,” Leslie said.

Command said a Kamehameha Schools official with whom he spoke on Friday claimed the area had been previously disturbed.

Paulsen also addressed the timing of the project.

“This project has been in assessment, planning and design for an extended period of time because it is not an easy fix and it’s important that the repairs are done right the first time,” he wrote. “We have also been working through other issues relating to our three other tsunami-related repair projects at Keauhou Bay, and those projects have required substantial resource commitments as well.”

Email Erin Miller at emiller@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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