Building bridges in Kokee

WAIMEA — Construction will begin today on the $2.4 million replacement of three bridges along the Mohihi-Camp 10 Road in the Na Pali-Kona state forest reserve.

The bridges won’t improve road conditions, according to Kauai branch of the state department of land and natural resources division of forestry and wildlife, and won’t make it easier for two-wheel drive vehicles to access the area.

“The road will remain a dirt access road and will continue to be maintained as such,” Kauai Branch of DLNR DOFAW said in a statement to TGI. “This project will only be replacing the corroded and failing bridges. The capacity of the bridges will allow access for hunter and camper vehicles, as well as critical forestry emergency rescue and firefighting crews and maintenance personnel.”

The unpaved road along Highway 550, about 100 yards past Kokee State Park Headquarters, provides access to many of the trails in the area. It will be closed at the end of Kumuwela Flats and vehicular access will be available on Kumuwela Road and to the Berry Flats Trail.

The three existing bridges were built in 1925 and 1926 by the Kekaha Sugar Company. They are aged, deteriorated and in need of replacement, according to a news release from the the state DLNR.

“Two of the three existing bridges are constructed with railroad steel members which have corroded over time,” the Kauai Branch of DLNR DOFAW statement explained. “The other bridge is constructed out of concrete and shows signs of failing.”

The project contractor is Kiewit Infrastructure West Co. and construction is expected to continue through May 31, 2017.

The project is exempt from needing an environmental assessment under a Ch. 343 exemption. The Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the award of the construction contract on July 10, 2015.

BLNR explained the exemption was approved because “replacement or reconstruction of existing structure and facilities where the new structure will be located to generally on the same site and will have substantially the same purpose, capacity, density, height and dimensions as the structure replaced.”

The new bridges will be constructed using pre-cast concrete because the location of the bridges presented challenges of transporting material and concrete, according to Kauai Branch of DLNR DOFAW. Pre-cast concrete panels were selected as the preferred material for longevity and speed of construction.

“New bridges will prolong vehicle access along the unpaved Camp 10 Access Road for locals and visitors for years to come,” the DLNR release said. “They will improve access by Division of Forestry and Wildlife personnel to maintain the recreational facilities and natural resources, and to prevent and fight forest fires.”

During the construction period, the road will be closed only to vehicle traffic. Pedestrian traffic will be allowed to access the area both through the Mohihi-Camp 10 Road and via the Pihea Trail.

Parking for pedestrian access on Mohihi-Camp 10 Road will be allowed along the sides of Kumuwela Flats.

Hikers should be mindful of large trucks and heavy equipment working in the area.

Mohihi-Camp 10 Road is a 4-mile-long, unpaved road that requires 4-wheel drive for vehicular traffic. The road is used by many for ATV recreation. Approximately 3/4 mile past the boundary of the Na Pali- Kona Forest Reserve, along the Mohihi-Camp 10 Road, is the Kawaikoi Campground. Sugi Grove Camp is also along the road.

All camp sites, trails and public hunting areas will remain open.

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