‘Nawiliwili project’ Part 2

By December of 1923 there had been 1,258 feet of breakwater in place. The legislature appropriated $100,000 for wharves and terminals at Nawiliwili.

During Gov. Farrington’s absence from the Territory, acting Gov. Brown completed the Loan Fund, leaving Nawiliwili completely out, even when Kaua‘i had a verbal commitment from Gov. Farrington that the money would be available.

The amount of freight to be shipped through Nawiliwili now became the prime concern of the harbor board. Both Alexander and Baldwin and American Factors had stated that they would continue to ship their sugar and pineapples through their own ports.

But it was estimated that there would be enough tonnage carried by Inter Island Navigation Co. to warrant building Nawiliwili. Matson Navigation Co. and three of their captains said that they would send its vessels into a safe harbor where its customers had freight to ship. The three captains wrote letters recommending Nawiliwili.

In 1925 the harbor board called for bids on the seawall, which must be built before the dredging can start. The Federal Government was then hesitant to continue the project because of the stalling by the harbor board.

In 1926 the contract to build the retaining wall was left to Hobby and Coney. This is when the railroad bridge across the Huleia River at Niumalu was built so that the contractors could tap into the quarry on the far side of the river. By September 1926, over 400 feet of retaining wall was in place. The specs for the stones to be used for the outside of the retaining wall called for stones to be at least two tons in weight. Most of these stones came from the coastline on the ocean side of the present Lihu‘e Airport runway.

In late 1926 a break occurred in the breakwater at the 1,800 foot area of the break water due to extremely high surf. This break was repaired as soon as the surf subsided. The breakwater was finally finished in 1927 at 2,150 feet in length. The retaining wall was finished by the end of May 1928 and the dredging started by July 1928 and would take about a year to complete.

Pier 1 with a building was finally finished in the mid 1930s. The warehouse on Pier 2 was not built until 1957 when the bulk sugar warehouse was built.

I can remember the dredge and all the pipes heading to the enclosed area where Matson’s yards all the way up to where the Hale Kaua‘i used to be. It was fascinating for a young boy to watch the water and sand and coral being pumped to make new land.

Now for a few personal experiences in connection to the harbor project. 

I always wondered why my grandfather called Bigelow the Chairman of the Harbor Commision a “*****”(censored). After reading this booklet, I can see why.

What really impressed me was that the trucks were so small in those days that only one of the big stones would be carried by the trucks.

I loved going for a ride with my grandfather to see the dredge working and the pipes that snaked across the water carrying the dredged material into the holding area.

When the project was finished and the inter-island steamers were visiting Nawiliwili twice a week there was never a peep about sufficient tonnage even through Port Allen and Ahukini.

There were times when the winter surf was too big for safe entry into Ahukini the sugar was railroaded to Nawiliwili for loading.

After the harbor was in operation Lihu‘e Plantation built a railroad line from Ahukini to Nawiliwili. This line went through what is today about where the entrance to the Marriott is and across the narrow footbridge from JJ’s to Duke’s across the Nawiliwili stream.


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