HANAPEPE — Mayor Bryan Baptiste’s administration is working with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to resolve concerns about runoff from the island’s first residential drug treatment center onto nearby Salt Ponds — a treasured site to Hawaiians.
Some saltmakers say a Baptiste option — a sewage line serving the county’s Salt Pond Park and possibly the treatment center — should not be implemented without environmental studies.
Whether the studies will be done is not yet determined, but the county halted the conversion of the old Kaua‘i Humane Society headquarters into the treatment facility last year due to OHA concerns.
Baptiste, who was not available for comment yesterday, has said he wants to address the agency’s concerns, but has voiced his woes the delays will further put off another program for Kaua‘i youth with drug and alcohol problems.
Having such a facility will enable those staying there to be close to families and hasten recovery, Baptiste has said.
Ron Agor, a Kaua‘i architect who designed the project at no cost to the county as a public service, said yesterday every effort is being made to get the work back on track, taking into account the input of OHA and residents.
“The administration is close to working out those problems,” he said.
The county could consider installing a sewage treatment plant at the site, Agor said.
At the same time, the council is moving forward with a request to the Kaua‘i County Council to float a $1 million bond to build a sewage line connecting the county’s Salt Pond Park to the main sewer line in Hanapepe.
Conceivably, another line could be linked from the drug treatment facility to the same main sewage line, Agor said.
Agor said septic-tank treated runoff from both the park and the drug treatment facility could safely remove effluent from the area, greatly reducing the risk of runoff or effluent polluting the Salt Ponds — used by generations of saltmakers, both Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian.
“We could be killing two birds with one stone,” he said.
Building the lines could inflict untold damage to burial sites and historical finds by the Salt Ponds, said Dawn Traina, a Hanapepe artist who has made salt in the ponds; a sentiment Ku‘ulei Santos, another saltmaker, agrees with.
“We want them to do the proper study, maybe an environmental impact statement,” Santos said.
Due to OHA concerns , the county ordered the contractor, Kaua‘i Builders, to halt work on the two-phase project last year. The project was funded with $1 million in federal, state and county funds, Agor said.
To address OHA’s concerns and to move the project along, the mayor suggested building the sewer line, Agor said.
Traina said building the sewer line would be disastrous without an environmental impact study.
“At this point, it is not a good idea to go ahead with that plan, because no one really knows how the drainage works there,” she said.
Don Cataluna, Kaua‘i’s representative on the OHA board, was not available for comment yesterday, but Traina said it was her belief OHA wants a study to be done.
“There might be cultural deposits and burials,” she said. “Salt Ponds is a sacred burial site, at least that is my understanding of what has been said at government meetings.”
According to Traina, Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the OHA Board of Trustees, said in the state OHA and Hawaiian community address in 2006, OHA would strive to protect cultural sites and practices.
At the same time, Apoliona gave assurances the trustees will find ways to protect the “much-treasured Salt Pond in Hanapepe, Kaua‘i,” Traina said.
One way to reach that goal would be to build gravel pits “so that the water stays onsite and filters into the ground naturally,” Agor said. “And there are individual waste treatment plans that would release water into the ground. And that is being looked at right now.”
Agor said it was his belief “the administration is in the midst of discussion with OHA on those mitigation measures.”
Agor said he too would like to see the Salt Ponds protected, but at this point, there exists no evidence runoff would significantly impact them.
But Traina said the community won’t support the project without the studies being done.
She said some residents are still upset over a decision by the state Department of Transportation to lengthen the runway at Burns Field (Port Allen Airport) and the County of Kaua‘i to lay old and new asphalt by the Salt Ponds to facilitate vehicular traffic.
Both government actions compromised the drainage system of the Salt Ponds, Traina said.
The community supports the idea of a treatment facility, but not in Hanapepe, she said.
“There must be many other places that would be better for the kids,” she said. “It should be a place that is pleasant, not a place where (unwanted) animals were put to death.”
Residents enthusiastically supported Baptiste’s proposal in 2005 to build the island’s first residential drug treatment center for youths.
Many liked the idea of giving island youth treatment on their home island. With what appeared to be rousing support for the project, the Planning Commission approved permits in September 2005.
But some Hanapepe residents immediately began voicing opposition, saying the county failed to notify the greater Hanapepe area.
County officials listened to concerns, but said they used existing rules in notifying those most affected by the treatment center project.
Kauai Builders won the bid for the first phase of the contract, which involved grubbing and grading of the old Kaua‘i Humane Society site, and some minor demolition.
The county has put out a bid contract for the second phase, the renovation and conversion of the buildings for the treatment center.
To stay within budget, Agor said he kept an open-air pavilion for female and male youths and downsized a kitchen and a computer area. At the same time, one building for counseling and computer work was eliminated, Agor said.
Because of higher construction costs, the county administration has sought another $600,000 to complete the renovation work.
The council, however, took no action on the funding request to better evaluate the project.
Building the additional sewer line would be a cost above the $1 million budgeted for the project, and the additional $600,000 being sought to finish the work, Agor said.
“The $600,000 to finish the rehabilitation would depend on what the administration and OHA have come to in an agreement,” said Jay Furfaro, who heads the Kaua‘i County Council’s Finance and Economic Development Committee. “The question of the administration’s initiatives to OHA will be resolved when the capital budget is approved.”
Furfaro, who has said he wants to hear more about the issues raised by OHA, said the council will go over the funding requests in due time.
“When the council goes over the budgets, the council will probably want an update on the pipe project,” he said.
The mayor submitted a $139.4 million operating budget and a $66.6 million capital improvement budget for the next fiscal year.
Those figures could change when Baptiste presents his supplemental budget to the council at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday at the Historic County Building.
The mayor and the council have until June 30 to hammer out the new budgets, as required by the County Charter.