HANAKAPIAI — The state has only received a handful of written comments on the draft environmental assessment addressing a bridge over the Hanakapiai Stream in Kauai’s Napali Coast State Wilderness Park.
The comment period closed Nov. 7 for the draft environmental assessment on the project to build a $500,000, four-foot wide, 82-foot long, aluminum truss pedestrian bridge across the Hanakapiai Stream.
Six comment letters from community members were logged by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources before the deadline and an additional seven comment letters were accepted after the closing date, according to DLNR spokesman Dan Dennison.
That’s in addition to the comments logged at community meetings on the project.
“Technically, only those comments received before the closing date require formal response, but we will consider all comments,” Dennison said.
After the closing date on the DEA, the department of State Parks met with Tetra Tech, the consultant who prepared the DEA to consider the responses and revisions to the EA based on the comments.
Now, DLNR is in the process of revising the EA based on public comments received and will pursue the required permits for the project, including a County Special Management Area permit.
The bridge would be painted with a dark brown powder coating and the estimated cost of the proposed bridge project, including abutments, micropiles, trail improvements, helicopter installation and construction, is $506,000.
About 50 feet of new trail is planned to connect the bridge to the existing Kalalau Trail.
Construction is expected to take 10 weeks, according to the project’s DEA, and is set to begin in early 2018.
The need for a bridge stems from the flash flood conditions that quickly manifest in the stream, which have stranded hikers multiple times and have proven deadly.
DLNR closes the trail whenever flash flooding occurs, but confirmation of flood conditions at Hanakapiai are usually confirmed visually by staff members.
If those conditions occur overnight or early in the day, State Parks can often close the trail with few day hikers having reached Hanakapiai. However, if those conditions develop mid-to-late in the day, typically dozens of hikers are stuck on the wrong side of the stream.
“Hanakapiai is an extreme case, where flooding often develops without advance warning or weather advisories,” Dennison said.
When water levels rise, those trapped on the other side of the stream either chance a crossing or resign to a night in the great outdoors.
“History indicates that many will take the risk of crossing a flooding stream rather than suffer a cold night in the wilderness, even when warned of the danger,” Dennison said. “A bridge allows those hikers who would otherwise be stranded to safely cross the stream and hike back to the trailhead.”
The installation of a bridge would significantly reduce the need for costly and dangerous helicopter rescues and would allow for rescue personnel to access the far side of the stream during dangerous conditions.
But building a bridge won’t change the state’s policy of closing the trail during flood conditions, Dennison said.
“Even if the trail is closed due to stream flooding, a bridge allows those hikers to safely cross Hanakapiai Stream on their way out,” Dennison said.