Kikiaola improvements jeopardized by funding shift

At a Wednesday meeting on the status of improvements at Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor in West Kaua‘i, officials from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could draw the ire of some longtime fishermen.

The fishermen are upset that the Corps of Engineers “reprogramed” $10 million originally earmarked for harbor improvements to fund other nationwide emergency projects between 2001 and 2004.

The reprograming of the funds has jeopardized $4 million the state pledged in matching funds for dredging the harbor’s 4.5-acre interior, building slips and carrying out other improvements.

Richard Rice of DLNR’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation said last week that sand forced through the breakwater by years of wave action has filled the interior of the harbor, leaving boats vulnerable to high wind and waves.

William Mossman of the O‘ahu-based Hawaii Boaters Political Action Association said boats could be damaged or overturned in severe situations.

“My son was in an inflatable (boat) and it flipped over,” Mossman said. “He was with two other people at the time.”

Mossman’s son, Glenn, is a West Kaua‘i resident who has used the harbor for 28 years. The incident occurred five years ago, and though no one was seriously injured, it was a wake-up call for Mossman and others.

Glenn Mossman said the federal and state government have promised improvements in recent years, but he’s tired of waiting.

“Nothing has been done,” he said. “We don’t know where to turn to.”

The $10-million reprogramming left $2.9 million left in the harbor-improvement fund. With the $3.5-million federal allotment for 2006 and the $4 million in matching state funds, the current budget is $10.4 million.

Though the DLNR and Corps of Engineers have been accepting bids for a contract, Rice said last week that the lowest bids were coming in at double the available funds.

Rice said federal and state officials are looking over

options and may have to ask Congress for additional funds.

Fires fueled by the delays were sparked again with the announcement of the $10 reprogramming, some of which went to Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, Rice said.

To proponents of the harbor-improvement project like William Mossman, that’s unacceptable.

Mossman said the $10 million was transferred to other projects between 2001 and 2004.

“That was a whole year before Katrina,” he said. “The public doesn’t know about these things, but the Corps and the state have been talking about these things for months and not telling anybody.”

In a May 7 letter to U.S. Rep. Ed Case, D-2nd Congressional District, Mossman included a chart illustrating Congress’s inadequate appropriations for the contract work between 2001 and 2004.

Mossman also reminded Case that he had contacted Corps of Engineers leaders about the funding and had received a report revealing “programming actions by the COE over the past five years removed $10,045,000 of the federal fund” for the Kikiaola project work, leaving $2.9 million.

“The reprogrammed $10,045,000 was never restored, and this caused the insufficient funds situation that canceled the COE Kikiaola contract bids in September 2005,” Mossman wrote.

Mossman noted however, that Corps of Engineers leaders assured Case the $10 million would be restored “so as not to impact the Kikiaola project schedule.”

To date, the Corps of Engineers has not taken any action in that regard, Mossman said, and he told Case he did not think they were doing anything.

“It appears (the COE is) dismissing the restoration commitments (made in letters to Case),” and that $6.4 million remains “to start all over again,” Mossman wrote.

In the letter, Mossman said he and other advocates were “extremely frustrated with this unfair situation” and want documentation to explain why there has been no effort by the Corps of Engineers to restore the $10 million.

Mossman said he sent an e-mail to Rice informing him the $4 million in state funds had lapsed last year, but the state had extended the money because the Corps of Engineers was in the process of going out for bid on the Kikiaola project.

Mossman said the DLNR division Rice heads up “must find a solution” by June 30 “or the funds will go back to the state general fund.”

Mossman also said he contacted the Hawai‘i Corps of Engineers to check on the status of the restoration, and division leaders told him they were not aware of any efforts to restore the funds.

Mossman also said in his May 7 letter that the chief of the Civil Works section of the DLNR had met with state DLNR director Peter Young, Rice and his staff, Sen. Gary Hooser and Rep. Bertha Kawakami at the state Capitol.

Immediately following the meeting, Hooser informed Mossman only $9 million in federal funds remained, and that is not even sufficient for the dredging of the harbor, which Mossman considers a “fall-back position” for the Kikiaola project.

The Corps of Engineers has said it will not pursue the Kikiaola project.

In response to Mossman, Case wrote that he had requested a total of $14.5 million in funding for the Kikiaola Harbor Improvement in his fiscal year 2007 request to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development Appropriations, citing the need to restore the $10,045,000 that was reprogrammed and requesting an additional $4,455,000 to allow for completion of the project.

“I expect that the House version of the bill that passed the Appropriations Committee will be available next week,” Case wrote.

“If the full amount of funding is not included, I intend to write General Stockton to insist that the Corps honor the promise to restore the funds.”

The meeting is from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, at the Waimea High School cafeteria.

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

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