Looking back on Cayetano’s Kaua’i achievements

Although the final outcome is still being disputed, Gov. Ben Cayetano looks at his decision to intervene in and put an end to the 20-year Hanalei commercial boating controversy as one of the bright spots in his eight years in the governor’s office.

During its unregulated peak, dozens of inflatable boats and other craft launched from the Hanalei River, creating chaos at the once-tranquil Black Pot County Beach Park and threatening peace among Hanalei residents.

Cayetano stepped in, and helped draw to a close the 20-year battle regarding over-commercialization of the tranquil Hanalei River.

His executive order effectively evicted un-permitted tour boats from the river and bay, with most of those operators who chose to continue in business moving to Port Allen.

Owners of three long-time tour-boat companies fought the order in court, winning some and losing some along the way, with the state appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals a federal-court ruling granting a permanent injunction against the state for adopting rules that would have effectively eliminated all motorized commercial activities in the river and bay.

The San Francisco-based appeals court has yet to issue a ruling on the state’s appeal.

Still, it remains peaceful in Hanalei, with just the three operators, a part-time sailing school and kayak operations allowed to continue.

Cayetano’s time as governor officially ended MONday, when former Maui Mayor Linda Lingle was sworn in to succeed him.

Cayetano took time during the twilight of his public-service career to list a few of his Kaua’i accomplishments over the years.

“Kaua’i has always held a special place in Governor Cayetano’s heart,” said Kauaian Jackie Kido, who had been Cayetano’s director of communications. “He appreciated its natural beauty very much, and he liked and understood Kaua’i’s people,” she said.

The feeling apparently was mutual, as Kaua’i voters overwhelmingly voted to make him the country’s first Filipino governor, and re-elected him by a large margin on this island even though his 1998 re-election race was a very close one with Lingle.

Cayetano’s actions regarding Kaua’i reflect changes the people of Kaua’i and Hawai’i wanted, he said, and were not always unanimously popular.

He floated the idea of establishing a new prison on Kaua’i, and drew mixed reaction when he canceled the proposed runway extension at Lihu’e Airport.

Business leaders and farmers would have liked to have seen longer runways and larger planes, but Cayetano sensed that most people on the island wanted the runways kept exactly as they are.

“The Governor understood that Kaua’i’s people wanted to maintain their rural atmosphere, and that with technological advancements, the tremendous costs involved, and lack of support from the air carriers themselves, it made little economic sense to expand the runway,” Kido said.

Using federal funds, Cayetano acquired for the state Lumaha’i Beach from the Wilcox family, to preserve the scenic view plane for generations to come.

He also advocated to preserve Maha’ulepu Beach on Kaua’i’s South Shore, and his administration explored ways to work with Grove Farm to acquire the asset for Hawai’i’s people.

Unfortunately, his administration was not able to bring this to fruition.

Where economic-development initiatives are concerned, the state contributed nearly $950,000 for construction of a fruit disinfestation facility, which treats fruit to destroy fruit fly larvae and provides additional export opportunities for Kaua’i’s fruit growers.

That facility, near Lihu’e Airport, remains dormant, now under control of the Kauai County Farm Bureau, which is waiting mainly for more production from papaya growers to justify the re-opening of the facility.

The state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism worked with county officials to try to establish an enterprise zone on the island, where firms doing business inside that zone would get state and county tax breaks. Work on that plan continues.

The DBEDT during Cayetano’s reign engaged in a number of projects to boost sales of Kaua’i-manufactured products, for example, establishment of the Kauai Products Store, trade show support for both local and Mainland shows, advertising and promotional campaigns including the Kauai Products Council Directory, This Week on Kauai, and Kaua’i pocket map.

It is hard to overestimate the importance to Kaua’i of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, near Kekaha, Cayetano said.

The range provides 800 well-paying technical jobs (including 700 civilian positions, mostly working for civilian contractor ITT), and provides an annual economic impact to the island of over $152 million.

State government under Cayetano has supported the development of the West Kauai Technology Center’s first two phases, at Waimea.

“This facility will provide the critical mass needed to insure the success of Kaua’i’s dual-use technology industry, as well as provide the catalyst for expansion and job creation in other high-technology arenas such as information technologies, modeling and simulation,” Cayetano said.

Dual-use technology refers to high-tech applications that have both military and civilian uses, especially in communications and telecommunications.

Today, the island’s high-tech industry has six companies employing 150 well-paid technical, scientific people, leasing 22,000 square feet of space outside gates of PMRF (plus an additional 15,000 square feet in the joint federal, state and private sector Kauai Technology Center Phase II, under construction now).

Kaua’i expects to have 300 techies and scientists employed by dozen of companies, including Solipsys (software, networking, sensors), Loea (information technology, high-speed wireless communications with especially promising products for Hawai’i’s visitor industry as well), Trex, SAIC (IT services), MIT Lincoln Labs (advanced electronics technology), Digital System Resources, Cambridge Research, Textron, plus Kaua’i offices of O’ahu-based STI, Oceanit and RCUH.

An additional 40,000 square feet of high-tech space is coming online soon, in Lihu’e.

DBEDT has had contracts supporting the Kauai Economic Development Board, to market Kaua’i as a location for high-technology testing and evaluation. Included in these efforts are the promotion of PMRF and the west Kaua’i technology centers.

Also during Cayetano’s time, the DBEDT Community-Based Economic Development Program has made grants and loan funds available to support small businesses and community-based nonprofit organizations.

He has supported the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau and cultural tourism with grants through the Hawaii Tourism Authority of around $1 million a year.

With state support, the Kaua’i film industry has continued to do well, he said.

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