KAPAA — Questions about potential logging in the Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve were just a few of the concerns raised Tuesday night about the plan to build a bridge over Keahua Stream.
Materials arrived to construct a $2.5-million bridge over Keahua Stream at the end of Kuamo’o Road in Keahua Arboretum in early September, with approval of the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, but without a public hearing.
The potential of introducing more people, especially tourists, to the area by building a bridge was a concern for many people at the meeting.
“This is sacred land and it’s not meant for everybody,” said Punohu Kekaualua III. “DOFAW (DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife) doesn’t even have jurisdiction over that land. Let’s see the evidence to that claim.”
Tuesday was an effort to remedy skipping the public hearing, according to Kauai DOFAW branch chief Sheri Mann.
“I want to apologize we didn’t do this before and as we move forward we will have the meetings when we do the EA (environmental assessment),” Mann told the group of about 50 people gathered at Kapaa Middle School.
The public was invited to learn about the project to construct a single-span, steel truss, 115-foot-long vehicle bridge with an adjacent pedestrian path about 20 feet downstream of the existing ford.
The prefabricated, hot-dip galvanized, structural-steel bridge will be painted green, according to the project’s environmental impact statement.
Mocon Corporation was selected as the contractor. Work has already begun on the project and is expected to be completed by early 2017.
The bridge will be able to hold 20 tons and isn’t being installed to promote commercial logging, Mann said, but not everyone was convinced.
“Why build a bridge that’s able to hold 20 tons?” asked Tika Kuhuaulua, along with several other people at the meeting. “Why not build a smaller bridge? There’s a reason for this.”
Mann said that reason was to increase the ease with which larger vehicles and emergency-response vehicles can cross Keahua Stream.
The need for a bridge over Keahua Stream was discovered in the ‘90s after enough issues with crossing the roadway had piled up, according to DLNR, and DOFAW filed a capitol-improvement-project request to install a bridge.
That was approved by the Legislature, but it took more than two decades to line up the money. During that time, an environmental assessment was completed. It was published in October 2014 with a finding of no significant impact. Some public comments are included in that assessment.
Once all of the legally required ducks were in a row, DOFAW put out a request for proposal to build the bridge and the contractor was selected.
Keahua Stream technically has three crossings and a bridge is planned for the other two, though the department is waiting on that bridge because staff members “don’t want to bite off more than they can chew,” Mann said.
The same process will have to be followed with the construction of the second bridge, she said.