Millions tabbed for improvements

State facilities on KauaÔi that need major repairs, and those needing upgrading to meet new federal sanitation standards, are planned to get improvements in the future, with the projects totaling into the millions of dollars, said the chair of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Peter Young, who is also head of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said removal of cesspools in compliance with upgraded requirements of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials, construction of sewer improvements and a viewing platform in state parks, and the finalizing of contracts for re-paving projects, are occurring or about to occur.

State parks facilities and structures have been the subject of criticism for years, but the improvements, whether they are ongoing or are planned, will protect and enhance KauaÔiÕs natural resources for years to come, he said.

The ongoing projects will bring pride to Kauaians, and will continue to help attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, if not more, to the Garden Island each year, Young said.

Young and Marsha Wienert, state Office of Tourism liaison, were on KauaÔi last week to make presentations on the status of existing and new projects of the DLNR on KauaÔi, and outline agency priorities.

Young and Wienert met with leaders with the KauaÔi Chamber of Commerce, the KauaÔi Visitors Bureau, the Kauai Economic Development Board, the KauaÔi Planning and Action Alliance, and the KauaÔi branch of the Hawaii Hotel and Lodging Association.

Young and Wienert said they have already met with representatives of similar businesses and community leaders from Hilo on the Big Island and on Maui on similar matters related to those islands.

Similar presentations are planned for business and community leaders in Kona on the Big Island, and on OÔahu, Young and Wienert said.

Among the biggest projects on KauaÔi, they said, are:

º The development of a well in KapaÔa, which is under construction, at a bid cost of more than $1 million;

º The drilling of an exploratory well for the LihuÔe and HanamaÔulu area, at a bid cost of about $670,000;

º Improvements to a sewer system at the Wailua River State Park, at a bid cost of about $575,000;

º Re-paving of a parking lot and pathway at the same park, at a bid cost of $225,755;

º Construction of a viewing platform at the Fern Grotto by the Wailua River, a world-renowned visitor attraction, at a bid cost of $110,000;

º Renovation of a bathroom at the Wailua River marina, at a bid cost of $76,200;

º Developing a contract to remove a cesspool in Waimea Canyon, at a bid cost of $1.2 million;

º Finalizing another contract to remove a cesspool at Polihale State Park, at a bid cost of $1.1 million.

º Replacement of a water line at KokeÔe State Park, at a bid cost of $752,500.

On other matters related to KauaÔi, Young said plans for a new public-fishing area and environmental/education center to be placed on land by the Wailua Reservoir are moving ahead smoothy.

Leaders with the DLNR and the University of HawaiÔi, who currently manage the land, have reached an agreement to Òtransfer the land (about five acres) back to the DLNR,Ó Young said. ÒWe are in the process of getting the land surveyed.Ó

The project will involve leaders with the DLNR, state Department of Education and the Hawaii Nature Center.

The DLNR officials will provide the land, students from KapaÔa High School will help raise fish for the reservoir, which will be used by the public, and the Hawaii Nature Center leaders will find the funds to build the environmental/education center.

ÒThey will do the funding for the improvements and operations,Ó Young said. ÒAnd, included in our agreement with the center, they will provide, possibly, guided-trail programs (and) managed-camping areas.Ó

The project would not have materialized without the help of Wade Ishikawa, an information specialist with the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources office on KauaÔi, Young said.

The original plans called for building up the fish stock in the reservoir, but Young said the plans were changed after he visited the site in 2003, and listened to IshikawaÕs expanded plans.

ÒWe talked about it, and it was an excellent idea,Ó Young said. ÒHis work and refinement of the idea has developed into a statewide program and, because of him, we have already approved another environmental/education center in Kalihi (on OÔahu) and Wahiawa (on OÔahu), and PuÔu WaÔawaÔa on the Big Island. And we are looking for other sites.Ó

Ishikawa was recognized as DLNR Employee of the Year in 2004 because of Òhis vision, as well as his hard work,Ó Young said.

ÒBecause of the activities on KauaÔi, the rest of the state is going to benefit, and KauaÔi was clearly the leader,Ó Young said.

Young also reported that action by members of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources on the disposition of leases for some 114 cabins in the KokeÔe and Waimea Canyon State Park complex need to go the state Office of the Attorney General for review and approval.

Of the 114 or so cabins, BLNR members decided that leaders of the DLNR may enter into direct negotiations with the lessees of 46 cabins that are deemed to be of a historical nature because they are at least 50 years old.

The direct negotiations for such units are allowed by state law, Young said.

The lessees, however, will have to comply with new lease conditions requiring them to preserve and protect the old cabins. Some of the cabin owners already do that.

How much the new leases could be for was not known.

The other cabins will be put out to auction in a way that coincides with how cabin leases in national parks are dealt with, Young said.

ÒThe existing lessee can match the highest bid and be able to retain his cabin,Ó Young said. ÒThat is the rule, and it follows directly with the national-park model, because any lessees who lease facilities in a national park are treated in the same way,Ó he added.

Members of the BLNR also ruled that DLNR officials may continue using cabins as they have in the past, and that DLNR leaders will enter into direct negotiations with leaders of nonprofit groups who currently lease cabins in KokeÔe. The new fees will be nominal, Young said.

In other matters, DLNR officials last week signed contracts with concessionaires to operate mobile-food concessions at Polihale and Wailua River state parks. For the third site, OpaekaÔa Falls in Wailua, Òwe are working on the paperwork,Ó he said.

BLNR leaders approved such operations at state parks across HawaiÔi at the repeated requests of visitors to state parks, Young said.

On another matter, DLNR leaders will not move forward at this time on their offer to have KauaÔi County officials take control of the small-boat harbors, piers and other facilities on KauaÔi that are currently managed by DLNR or state Department of Transportation Harbors Division officials, Young said.

County officials showed little or no interest in the offer, because state facilities here are operating in the red, partly because fewer concession companies operate at facilities here than at other facilities elsewhere in the state, Young has said.

Concessionaires have not operated here as much because the facilities are aged and worn, but more repairs could be done, and quicker some day, if higher user fees for the facilities are approved, he explained.

The facilities here operated here with a deficit of nearly $300,000 in 2004, Young pointed out.

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