Inouye wants $20 million for Kuhio Highway

United States Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawai‘i, announced yesterday that his colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2006 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill that includes $20 million to repair Kuhio Highway in Kilauea.

The highway was damaged when hundreds of millions of gallons of water poured over and under it during the March 14 flooding that killed seven people.

Three bodies were recovered, and four remain missing and are presumed dead.

Also included in the legislation is $6 million in transportation funds to help sugarcane growers cope with their losses, and $3 million for repair and rebuilding of the irrigation system infrastructure and removal of debris that are necessary because of the failure of the Ka Loko Reservoir dam, Inouye said in a press release.

In addition to $1 million for crop disaster assistance and $3 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for water systems technical assistance and flood-plain management services, another $500,000 is for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hydrologic Networks and Analysis Program, to provide assistance with conducting assessments of critical reservoirs and dams on Kaua‘i.

Those assessments include reservoir-level instrumentation, post-flood hydraulic assessments, and monitoring of dam structures using light-detection imagery.

Inouye toured the North Shore via helicopter March 24, shortly after attending the funeral of his wife, Margaret “Maggie” Inouye, at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific on O‘ahu.

“I know Maggie would have wanted me to do this, to see first-hand the damage on Kaua‘i, and to do my best to assist the people of Kaua‘i in their time of need.”

Inouye is scheduled to return to Hawai‘i next week to survey flood-damaged areas of Windward O‘ahu.

The Fiscal Year 2006 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee by a vote of 27 to 1. The measure now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

“I am extremely pleased that the committee, at my request, included amendments that will go a long way to help Kaua‘i recover from the devastating flooding that occurred recently on the North Shore of Kaua‘i,” said Inouye, a senior member of the committee.

“I am glad that committee members realized that immediate actin needed to be taken, that disaster relief needed to be included in the current fiscal year’s appropriation, and that the people of Kaua‘i could not wait for assistance until the next fiscal year,” Inouye said.

Also, state Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua‘i-Ni‘ihau, is calling for an independent investigation into the causes of the Ka Loko Reservoir dam failure.

Given the scope of the tragedy and recent reports of possible action or inaction by state and county officials and private landowners that may have caused or contributed to the dam’s failure, Hooser is requesting that an independent investigator be engaged to fully evaluate the circumstances surrounding the tragedy on Kaua‘i’s North Shore.

“Everyone on Kaua‘i, most especially those who lost their lives or were displaced by the Ka Loko Dam failure, deserves a full and independent investigation,” Hooser said.

“It is critical that we determine why and how this happened so we can make sure this event is never repeated,” he said.

“Because of the potential conflicts of interest, both real and perceived, it is essential that we have an independent investigation so that the community is confident that all actions by all parties involved are thoroughly and impartially investigated,” said Hooser.

Hooser is offering an amendment to HB970 calling for the independent investigation. HB970 is scheduled for a public hearing tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the State Capitol, and also provides approximately $15 million in emergency appropriations for the damage and destruction caused by heavy rains and flooding in February and March 2006.

The sums appropriated will be expended to hire consultants to determine the structural integrity of dams and reservoirs statewide, recommend long-term plans to ensure dam safety, repair and restore roadways, guardrails, retaining walls, and drainage structures on Kaua‘i, Hooser said in a press release.

Testimony may be faxed toll-free to 274-3141, then 6-6659# after the recorded message.

United States Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-urban O‘ahu, has also requested that officials with the U.S. Department of the Attorney General consider an independent investigation.

“I strongly believe a federal or independent attorney should investigate the cause of the Ka Loko Dam failure. Civil and possibly criminal liability needs to be determined,” Abercrombie said.

“With deaths, severe damage and overlapping jurisdictions, an investigation into the cause of the breach will be a very complicated and detailed challenge that should not be further mired in conflict-of-interest charges,” said Abercrombie.

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