WAIMEA — Gov. Neil Abercrombie joined the staff of the Kaua‘i Department of Water and other dignitaries to celebrate the completion of the waterline replacement project in Waimea and Kekaha, Saturday.
“Why Waimea on Kaua‘i?” Abercrombie said people asked him when informed of his plans. “Waimea is such a small town and the big media (periodicals and television stations) were not interested in this event. But it is very important to establish that we are all one people. That is why I’m here.”
Roy Oyama, chair of the county Board of Water Supply, said the project involved the replacement of water lines with 12-inch pipes from Kekaha to Waimea, some five miles.
Total cost of the project came in at $2.1 million with the state releasing $1.4 million and $700,000 coming from the Build America grant which was supported by the county, Oyama said.
“Every week, you hear about Honolulu spouting from a broken water line because of its age,” Oyama said. “We don’t want that problem which O‘ahu has.”
Abercrombie said the priorities have been established by county officials and shared with the state legislative team which brought it to his office.
Gary Heu, representing Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., said the Waimea Canyon Drive project could not have been done without the support of the state and Kaua‘i’s legislative team. State Sen. Ron Kouchi and state Rep. Dee Morikawa, both of whom have strong Westside ties, were present to help Abercrombie turn the key to the completed water system.
“This project helped create jobs for our local economy when it was needed,” Heu said. “This, in turn, infuses into the local economy.”
He said the the project positively impacts about 25 percent of the Waimea population, and Carvalho is excited because it is part of the county’s sustainability plan.
“I want to commend the Department of Water for its vision of sustainability,” Heu said.
Kouchi said the completion of the waterline replacement affords the Westside with better tools for economic revitalization.
He added that is only part of what Abercrombie has done to help Kaua‘i, one of the other projects being the repairing of Koke‘e Road, a campaign promise.
Kouchi said Abercrombie also allocated $6 million for a new library at Kapa‘a Elementary School so the younger students are separated from the high school and $11 million for a new gym at Kaua‘i High School.
“This water project is not just funded,” Kouchi said, “it’s completed. When the Department of Water sent out the invitations, the reply was, ‘For Waimea, you don’t get Dennis Esaki, you get Governor Abercrombie.’”
He noted that this might just be a small project, but the creation of many little projects results in a nice quilt.
David Craddick, the Department of Water manager, said the project went from shovel-ready to completion in about three weeks.
“We had to do this project,” Craddick said. “It came in under estimate and was waiting for the funds. We were thinking of doing the project at the expense of another because of the circumstances.”
Justin Moises, the field manager for the project for the DOW, said basically the project went in three phases, the first being replacing about five miles of pipeline from Kekaha, working from the schools and finally, the Waimea Canyon Drive phase which Kaohi said, “Now I can shower without changing my showerhead.”
Morikawa, whom kupuna and haku Aletha Kaohi described as a transplant Waimea is proud of, said the project completion gives Waimea the tools it needs for smart growth.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.