County almost ready to fix seawall

NAWILIWILI — Five years after the initial assessments, the sagging Pono Kai resort seawall may be within a few months of receiving a face lift.

“The preliminary estimate for this work is $1.5 million, and we’re hoping to be able to start construction in the winter,” County Engineer Doug Haigh told Kaua‘i County Council members Wednesday at their chambers in Nawiliwili.

Years of exposure to high tides, heavy rains and pounding surf have steadily eroded the seawall, he said. Scouring at the north end of the wall and settlement of stones has also caused the structure to slowly collapse.

Despite a consensus that the work needs to be done, council members revisited their concerns over a controversial aspect of the project as it relates to the adjacent multi-use path.

The project attracted some attention years ago, when the council approved the construction of a section of Ke Ala Hele Makalae right next to the heavily eroded wall fronting the Kapa‘a resort.

Haigh said the repair work may impact the surface of the coastal path. If that happens, he said the contractor would rebuild the path.

The cost of redoing that portion of the path — a 6-inch-deep slab of cement  — as a percentage of the overall project would be “quite small,” said Haigh, who didn’t have a hard figure to give council members this week.

The project may involve adding a rail adjacent to the path, Haigh said, a safety measure for the hundreds of daily path users.

Councilman Tim Bynum defended the path’s construction, saying thousands of users have benefited from it in the few years it has been in place.

“Even if we have to replace (the path), it’s not that huge of an expense,” he said.

Councilman Mel Rapozo had a different opinion.

“I would disagree with Mr. Bynum in a sense that it’s just concrete,” he said. “It’s expensive concrete.”

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura sided with Bynum.

“I think that five years of a bike path was worth putting a bike path in,” she said. “I love that Council member (Dickie) Chang has noted that the bike path is a community-building place where families, and friends and others come and use this facility. Everywhere you look when you’re on the path people are happy.”

Chang said he noticed that after Pono Kai Resort staff do a morning briefing to visitors, they go straight onto the path to exercise. Many resort timeshare owners have developed friendships with Kaua‘i residents, he said.

Understaffed state DOH delaying permit

Hired a few years ago, Oceanit has completed the wall’s preliminary design.

The county plans to use fiberglass-reinforced plastic sheet piles instead of steel ones to avoid future corrosion repairs, Haigh said.

“After we install the sheet piles, we will move the existing stones back and put them adjacent to the sheet piles,” Haigh said. “So we are actually retreating from the existing line of the seawall.”

A couple years ago the state Department of Land and Natural Resources dredged the nearby Waikea Canal, Haigh said, and the collected sand is still in storage waiting to be placed in front of the seawall when completed.

“We’re still in the early stages, so we don’t know exactly how the beach nourishment will proceed,” he said.

An Environmental Assessment found no significant impacts to the area. The county has issued Special Management Area and variance permits. The last hurdle now is obtaining federal and state Department of Health permits, which Haigh said has been “very frustrating.”

Understaffed, state workers have told him they work on one permit at a time, Haigh said.

“They don’t give any idea when they might be done,” he said.

Despite saying he’s “kind of in a limbo,” Haigh said he is optimistic he will receive the necessary permits in the next three to four months and be able to proceed with construction.

The county will also have to obtain easements from Pono Kai Resort to tie the sheet pile in place. But Haigh said that shouldn’t be a problem, because the wall will benefit the resort.

“If we didn’t build it, most likely they would be building one in the future to protect their property,” he said.

Moanakai seawall next

Haigh said the county is also planning a $2 million repair of the Moanakai Road Seawall in Kapa‘a, just south of Pono Kai.

The Moanakai seawall’s concrete cap is damaged; there are decaying tree stumps in its structure; part of the northern section has collapsed; and what’s left has been affected by erosion, according to Haigh.

The engineering report is completed, he said. An informal consultation with DLNR determined the wall should be moved a bit more inland. This necessitated a revision that is now under way.

The project’s EA should be ready by this week, Haigh said. But the design change may impact the EA work. Furthermore, the county is still waiting on numerous permits.

It all goes as planned, repair work on the Moanakai wall will begin in the summer of 2012.

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