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DLNR to investigate Kalalau rockfall hazard

KALALAU — State Department of Land and Natural Resources officials, concerned about potential danger to campers, said they are investigating the possibility of clearing large loose rocks from a high slope on the western end of the quiet Kalalau Beach on the North Shore.

DLNR spokeswoman Debbie Ward confirmed this week that staff from the state Engineering and State Parks divisions along with the Army Corps of Engineers went to Kalalau Beach on Sept. 24 to review the scope of a project to address rockfall hazards.

Eyewitnesses said the researchers, transported into and out of the remote valley via helicopter, took photos of large rocks west of the waterfall, asked campers to describe where the water levels had been the previous night and explained that rockfalls making direct contact with the ocean could require additional permits.

Ward said the DLNR is now in the process of determining state and federal regulatory requirements and will conduct a geotechnical assessment in early 2009.

“DLNR is planning to conduct a detailed rockfall hazard assessment to identify high hazard areas to guide relocation of existing facilities (such as the composting toilets and additional campground areas); design of mitigation measures, which could include future rock scaling of critical areas; and installation of additional Land Board-approved natural hazard rockfall warning signage and area closures,” she said in an e-mail.

When the rock scaling project begins, trained climbing professionals will rappel down on safety ropes and remove loose rock from the slopes by hand, using crowbars, hammers and long sticks called ‘oo, Ward said. Despite preliminary reports, there is no plan to use explosives.

DLNR anticipates the project will start next year and will provide notification when work is scheduled as it will cause area closures.

In April, the State Parks Division closed a portion of the Kalalau campground to protect park users, visitors, hikers and campers from potential rockfall hazards, and the Land Board approved the posting of rockfall hazard and area closed signage for the area in September, Ward said.

The camping area closure was based on an evaluation done by geotechnical consulting firm Earth Tech of high hazard rockfall areas that could affect the camping area near the waterfall.

The rest of the campground remains open and campers will be accommodated in that section, according to Ward.

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