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Flooding stalls council action

LIHU‘E — Unprecedented flooding brought on by the breaching of the Ka Loko and Morita reservoirs in Kilauea Tuesday that left three dead and four missing and flooding across the island took their toll on members of Kaua‘i County Council committees the following day.

Business at the council meeting at the historic County Building on March 15 stalled because key individuals weren’t available.

Council Chairman Kaipo Asing took an aerial tour of the disaster area in Kilauea, with Gov. Linda Lingle, Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste, members of the media, and others.

Councilman Jay Furfaro, general manager of operations at Princeville at Hanalei, received Lingle and her key staffers at the Princeville Airport as part of the emergency aerial survey in Kilauea.

County Engineer Donald Fujimoto was elsewhere, coordinating emergency county services in the wake of the disaster.

Because the three key individuals were busy, the rest of the council members decided not to take any action on a proposal to rebuild or replace a small bridge that spans the Moloa‘a Stream.

That bridge was knocked down by rain-induced flooding at the stream recently, temporarily stranding families on the mauka side of the stream.

Since then, folks have gotten around by using a privately-owned bridge that spans the small stream in the still-isolated East Kaua‘i community.

Other individuals or members of families who were temporarily stranded left vehicles on the other side of the road to run errands and to get to work.

But the folks have become tired of having to rely on the temporary measures, want normalcy back in their lives, and want government leaders to move forward on a plan to put in a workable replacement bridge.

The other bridge was swept downstream by the flooding, and came to rest in the steam bed.

State and county agencies are working on a plan, says Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste, but work isn’t going to take place immediately.

For humanitarian reasons, the U.S. Navy Seabees built the original bridge that recently gave away to the flooding.

But the Seabees aren’t around this time because they are in the Middle East, helping to fight the war on terrorism and tending to infrastructure problems over there, Baptiste said.

“So we don’t have the resources we had last time, definitely,” Baptiste said.

In any case, state officials will put provide the building materials, and county leaders, either with their own crews or through a contractor, will build the structure, Baptiste said.

The plans also have to be certified by government agencies and deemed safe before the structure goes up. The council members also want to give their blessings.

State Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i-Ni‘ihau, wants to help, and has petitioned Lingle, Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, who heads the state Civil Defense office, and Sandra Kunimoto, chairwoman of the state Department of Agriculture, to have a workable bridge built over the stream.

According to a news release from Hooser, Lingle has directed those in Lee’s office to immediately fund the repair, and to work with members of Baptiste’s administration to expedite the project.

Residents in Moloa‘a recently held a peaceful gathering in Moloa‘a, asking for governmental intervention.

In other County Council business, the legislators also didn’t move on a request to use $100,000 in county funds to make improvements at the motocross track in Wailua, located just south of the county’s Wailua Golf Course.

The majority of the members of council wants input from Asing and Furfaro before moving ahead on the use of the funds, according to Councilman Daryl Kaneshiro.

Kaneshiro also said the facility could be relocated.

The council members had hoped to get an update on the proposed improvements, and on the track’s operation and condition, but Fujimoto was elsewhere, responding to the March 14 disaster in Kilauea.

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

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