Landowner frustrated with flood damage

‘OMA’O — ‘Oma’o landowner Billy DeCosta sympathizes with the flood victims of the March 14 dam breach in Kilauea that left seven dead.

And he is thankful all available governmental resources were deployed for the recovery.

The issue he has with the Kilauea tragedy is his own post-flooding problems in ‘Oma’o and wishes county officials would show him the same type of attention they have shown the Kilauea flood victims.

He feels attention needs to be paid to filling in a 25-foot sinkhole on his 10.5 acre mountainside property, halting or slowing erosion of a hillside that threatens to send more mud onto Kaumuali’i Highway beneath his property and that of a neighbor, and shoring up the hillside before any trees fall and injure or kill people in a neighboring home.

If nothing is done, a mudslide will occur on Kaumuali’i Highway, people will get hurt, and lawsuits will be filed, DeCosta told The Garden Island.

The recent erosion has put him in a financial sinkhole, he said. The persistent rains of a few weeks ago eroded part of his driveway, creating a 25-foot-deep sinkhole.

He said a contractor estimated the repair work at $75,000, an amount that would create financial hardship for him.

All his headaches stem from constant rainwater that flowed from the mountains down to his property and then down to the highway, DeCosta said. The property above him is owned by Alexander & Baldwin and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, he said.

“I am not looking to sue anybody. I just want a little help,” DeCosta said.

As a hunter of 35 years, he knows what self sufficiency is, but “this is a little more than I can handle, I think,” DeCosta said.

County Engineer Donald Fujimoto, who visited the site, said the problem may not be as bad as it seems.

“From what I saw, I couldn’t see any real bad thing that was happening to his property, like any drainage,” he said.

“It seems just like any runoff from heavy rains, but he (his property) is adjacent to the state highway. So, if anybody is involved, it could be the state highway (division of the state Department of Transportation).” DOT spokesman Scott Ishikawa was not immediately available for comment yesterday.

DeCosta said the drainage problem on his property has existed for years, and intensified during recent weeks of constant rains, sometimes torrential in nature.

Waters ran down three streams — in actuality, three dirt roads that run from the A&B and DLNR land to DeCosta’s lands — during the rain, and during a particular period of heavy rain on the evening of March 16, causing land on his hillside and that of a neighbor’s to erode.

The constant flow of water eroded the land around trees on both properties, causing 10 large trees — some as tall as 30 feet — to “lean over” dangerously, DeCosta said.

Because of fears one of the trees might fall on a rental home beneath his property that has been occupied by a newlywed couple, he said he paid Hana Hou Tree-Trimming Company $900 to cut down the trees a few weeks after they became a threat to safety.

DeCosta said he would like to see the other nine trees cut down or trimmed. With most of the upper weight of the tree removed, they would be less likely to fall over, he said.

DeCosta also said he doesn’t feel it is his responsibility to pay for the work, and that the government should be responsible for heading off what could be public hazards.

“Wait until the next big rain, you will see the trees fall down,” DeCosta said.

He feels if anyone is responsible for paying for the repair work, it should be either A&B or DLNR, because they are owners of the lands from where the storm waters came.

DeCosta said the sinkhole by his driveway is about the size of a plantation home and measures about 25 feet deep.

Repairing the damage would involve putting in boulders, land and a retaining wall.

DeCosta said he initially asked county officials for boulders to shore up the road that abuts the sinkhole, but was not successful.

“If I don’t get it fixed, I will have no more property to cut a (new driveway),” he said.

He said government officials were “nice” in explaining they couldn’t do much because the problem was tied to private lands.

“Nice no solve the problem,” DeCosta said. “We need to take care of the safety of our people.” He said he sent letters seeking suggestions to his problems to U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawai’i, U.S. House Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawai’i, Gov. Linda Lingle and Kaua’i Sen. Gary Hooser.

He said Hooser and one of his staffers were the only ones to respond so far. “He said he was going to get on it right away,” DeCosta said.

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