Council calls on mayor to help Moloa‘a residents left stranded without bridge

LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i County Councilman Jay Furfaro wants Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste to pull together federal, state and county resources to replace a Moloa‘a vehicular bridge washed away by recent heavy rains.

The small bridge was torn away from its abutment by surging rainwater, temporarily stranding six families mauka of the Moloa‘a Stream.

During a meeting of members of the council’s Parks and Public Works Committee on Wednesday, Furfaro asked Baptiste to contact leaders of the Navy Seabees and state Department of Land and Natural Resources for assistance.

Members of the Navy Seabees can put in a new bridge, and county leaders can begin talking with DLNR leaders on the costs for the building materials, Furfaro said.

Officials with the Kaua‘i County Department of Public Works would deploy all necessary resources for the work, Furfaro added.

During a meeting with reporters at the Lihu‘e Civic Center, Baptiste said staff members in his office have “gotten calls, and we are trying to get something in as soon as possible.

“I want to do a partnership (among federal, state and county agencies) to do something,” Baptiste said. “But I can’t guarantee anything.”

A priority, though, he said, is to help families who live mauka of the stream and who have difficulty getting to and from their homes.

Some families have solved the problem of the lack of a bridge by using two cars, one on each side of the stream, to get to and from their homes and work or other destinations.

Others used a private bridge spanning another section of the stream.

Another way council members can help these folks is by asking state officials to help determine the ownership of the immediate area around the bridge and the bridge, and to indemnify the U.S. Navy personnel (Seabees) who make the repairs, Furfaro said.

A county representative said council members requested that DPW leaders consult with lawyers in the Office of the County Attorney to determine who owns the bridge.

As to the road leading to the bridge and the structure that once stood, there exists a “long history of dealings between the state and county” over ownership and maintenance of the bridge road and other small roads on the island, Furfaro said.

Furfaro referred to these types of roads as “roads in limbo.”

Some of these roads, including those with names and those with no formal names, are subjects of decrees between leaders of the Territory of Hawai‘i and the counties that make reference to maintenance, liabilities and improvements to traditional roads, regardless of their substandard status, Furfaro said.

The road with the washed-out bridge, off Moloa‘a Road, is known by nearby residents as “Moloa‘a Hui Road,” “Government Road” and “Orphan Road.”

If county leaders want to resolve the issue of ownership of such roads, including the road on either side of the fallen bridge, then a title search should be initiated, Furfaro continued.

The requirement for a title search was put in a 2001 resolution approved by council members asking state officials not to deed anymore “roads in limbo” without first working with members of the council and the Kaua‘i County DPW, Furfaro said.

In the meantime, Furfaro asked Baptiste to implement a short-term solution, as was the case in 1997, when state and county leaders and those with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working with U.S. Navy Seabees, built the bridge that last month washed away.

Men with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Navy Seabees built the bridge, while state and county leaders paid for the building materials.

The bridge that went up was a short-term solution, and a new, short-term solution has to be applied now, Furfaro said.

An Acrow bridge, which can be used for temporary and permanent solutions, would have come in handy, but none are available, although Furfaro made a pitch to other members of the council to buy one in the past for emergencies like the one that evolved with the washing away of the Moloa‘a access bridge.

In fashioning the county budget last year, council members had hoped to acquire an Acrow bridge for emergencies.

That type of bridge was not funded in this year’s capital-improvement project budget, Furfaro said.

However, sufficient funds should be available in the county’s capital-improvement project budget and the county’s unappropriated surplus fund to cover the cost of buying such a bridge for emergencies like the one that developed in Moloa‘a, Furfaro said.

Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or lchang@kauaipubco.com.

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