Members of six families were temporarily stranded on the mauka side of Moloa’a Stream after a small wooden bridge was lifted off its foundation by surging stream water from heavy rains Tuesday.
“Now there’s just a big gaping hole where there used to be a bridge,” said Moloa’a resident Hope Kallai.
The bridge was pushed off the abutments by the rising water mixed with bamboo caught in the swirling currents that added to the pressure, another resident said.
As an alternate way to cross the stream, affected families have been using another bridge located on private property nearby, said William Wilcox, one of those temporarily stranded by the washout.
“One of the neighbors has a bridge, and was gracious enough to let us use it,” Wilcox said.
The bridge is “old and rickety,” he said, but “people are going over it.”
For himself, he said he doesn’t want to impose on the good will of the neighbor, and is looking for another alternative.
Some folks have already found a solution, Wilcox said.
He’s seen residents using two cars, one on each side of the stream, to get to and from homes that are located mauka of the stream, Wilcox said.
County spokesperson Mary Daubert said there are six to 12 homes caught without access after the washout. “The county is working to get the bridge put back in place,” Daubert said.
“As far as notifying the public about the road closure, we wouldn’t normally do that unless there would be a significant impact.”
The only markers indicating that the bridge is no longer there are “some soccer cones, and a length of bamboo,” said Kallai.
She fears that someone unaware will come around the corner and drive right into the creek bed if proper signs are not put up soon.
The road, nicknamed “Orphan Road,” “Old Government Road” or “Moloa’a Hui Road” by various residents, falls into a jurisdictional black hole. “Technically it is not a state or county road,” said Daubert. “It wouldn’t fall under our jurisdiction. It’s a long-standing issue as far as the ownership of that bridge.”
The road is considered private by many.
“We are trying to see if there is a way to get the bridge back up without addressing ownership of the bridge,” Daubert said.
Wilcox said some families have parked cars on the road, and access homes by using a foot bridge. That can be a cumbersome practice when going grocery shopping or bringing supplies from town, he said.
Wilcox said he is worried some of the affected folks may not want to leave their homes.
“There is one elderly lady who lives near where the bridge was,” Wilcox said. “She is a 72-year-old lady. It is going to be tough for her as the weeks go by, and hopefully not too many weeks go by before we find a solution.”
Daubert said county officials will act on resetting the bridge as soon as they get a commitment from representatives of a construction firm that has worked on it before.
“We might see if we can get the Seabees (U.S. Naval Construction Force) out at PMRF (U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, near Kekaha) to help,” Daubert said.
The Navy Seabees helped once before, when the bridge collapsed in the late ’90s.
During Tuesday’s downpour, the bridge was lifted off its foundation of stone, earth, concrete, and the tracks of a railway system, Wilcox said.
The railroad tracks were used by trains that brought sugar cane to processing mills in East Kaua’i years ago.
“The top part of the bridge is still intact in a neighbor’s yard, about 300 feet from where the bridge was,” Wilcox said.
On an emergency basis, government officials could put up a suspension bridge over the stream to help folks get around, Wilcox said.
Wilcox said he called state Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua’i-Ni’ihau, for help, and that “he is on it,” as well.
Residents want all who may be traveling in the area to be aware that it is a potentially dangerous situation, as the washout has not been marked well. “I just don’t want anyone to get hurt,” said Kallai.