Midler’s wetland plans could detour Kapa’a bypass road

Entertainer Bette Midler’s plans to re-establish wetlands on her Waipouli property may preclude the state from using those portions of her land for certain alignments of a proposed Kapa’a bypass road.

No fewer than five potential relief-road alignments run through Midler’s property mauka of Kuhio Highway near the Coconut Marketplace shopping center, including one route proposing to expand the existing Kapa’a bypass road that now cuts through some of her 1,400 acres there.

State Department of Transportation officials are investigating whether or not federal wetland designations will preclude Kapa’a bypass routes from being considered through wetland-designated portions of her property.

Pat Fung, transportation engineer with the Federal Highway Administration Honolulu office, which is coordinating federal funding for the Kapa’a relief-road project, said to date there have been no “fatal flaws” identified regarding potential routes through Midler’s property.

“Right now, to my understanding, all alternatives are open,” even the ones going through Midler’s land designated for wetlands, Fung said.

Fung pointed out that there are nearly 50 different potential routes still under consideration, including 10 different alignments that would pass through or near Midler’s property.

He and other representatives of various county and state agencies indicate Midler has thus far shown willingness to work with government agencies to try to accommodate potential bypass-route alignments through or around her property.

Fung said representatives of various federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are discussing whether or not federal wetland designations would derail certain roadway alignments.

Someone familiar with Midler’s tentative plans said wetland restoration and preservation, possibly a forestry endeavor, and wide greenbelt areas are all under consideration as uses of the land.

Midler could not be reached for comment this week, but representatives said when she knows what her plans will be for the 1,408 acres of Waipouli land on five parcels formerly owned by Amfac, she will publicly announce those plans.

When she purchased the land from Amfac in 1999 (the Bette Midler Family Trust is legal owner), her on-island representatives indicated she had no development plans for the land beyond a potential forestry project.

Information surfaced last year that Midler had signed a perpetual easement to allow wetland-restoration of around 100 acres of land mauka of Kapa’a Shopping Center that had earlier been drained to allow sugar farming.

The idea there is to restore the former wetland area for waterfowl habitat. Two potential bypass routes may be impacted by that decision.

Local planner Greg Kamm has been retained to do some planning work for the trust, but is precluded from speaking to the press about his work or trust plans for the properties, he said.

Midler’s lands are dotted with wetland designations according to maps at the county Planning Department, and on or near her lands now are habitats occupied by Hawaiian stilts, ducks, coots and gallinule.

The Midler Waipouli and Kapa’a acreage carries county agricultural or open zoning. She also owns over an acre of land at Ha’ena, and formerly owned property near Kilauea.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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