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North Shore seeks balance between locals, tourists

  • photo submitted by Elsa Flores Almaraz

    This photo shows new waterfalls that are still coming out of the hillside between Wainiha to Waikoko when it rains.

  • photo submitted by Elsa Flores Almaraz

    This photo shows the convoy from Wainiha to Waikoko, in which every vehicle needs a pacecard, like the blue one in the lower, lefthand corner.

WAINIHA — Residents on Kauai’s North Shore don’t want life to go back to the way it was before the April floods.

Too many people have been finding their way to the end of the road, they say, and they point to the estimated 2,000 average daily visitors to Haena State Park when it’s open.

“Since the National Guard and the Army left there’s been a new level of peace. There’s no helicopters overhead every five minutes,” said Elsa Flores Almaraz, who lives in Haena.

She continued: “Really, it’s beautiful, reclaiming what was once a sleepy neighborhood and a rural community out here.”

Flores Almaraz said she’s meeting some of her neighbors for the first time and together, they are taking on challenges.

“Living in Haena during the post-flood times has been a mixed bag of blessings,” she said. “My neighbors were the first responders during the flood. People are becoming community leaders. It’s beautiful and community-building for us.”

Currently, Kuhio Highway is closed past a checkpoint in Waikoko and the route is only open for local traffic at specific times, allowed through in convoys from about 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

That closure is preventing tourists from driving farther than Waikoko and it’s not just residents that are reportedly enjoying the rest.

“There’s usually this film over the water in the summer months, probably sunscreen,” said Koral McCarthy, who has been working with the Kauai Flood Kokua in Hanalei to help with flood relief. “Now, it’s clear. There’s more fish.”

Tuesday night Hawaii Department of Transportation briefed about 150 people on the status of the repair projects that would open the area up once again to traffic.

High on the priority list is the replacement of the “3W Bridges” — the Waioli, Waipa and Waikoko bridges, which is being funded by federal emergency repair money and should be done within the next four months.

The project has been on the books for a while, but was fast-tracked as a result of the flooding.

All three bridges are needed for heavy machinery access, according to HDOT project manager Larry Dill, and are necessary to complete repairs on and along the highway.

Attendees at the meeting suggested postponing the bridge projects and barging or helicoptering in supplies instead, but Dill said those proved to be expensive options.

Others mentioned alarm at HDOT fast-tracking the bridges project and upgrading the weight limit to 20 tons, pointing out that opens the door for more people in Haena.

“We did look at other options,” Dill told the crowd. “The bridge work facilitates the other emergency repairs.”

Work will happen at night on the bridges and it’s expected to take about four months to complete.

After the April floods, HDOT received $8 million in quick release Federal Highway Administration Emergency Relief funds for projects on Kuhio Highway, including the bridge replacements.

Other projects include repairs to two stream sites in Haena and debris removal from an additional three stream sites, five roadway stabilization projects, three bridge replacement projects and 18 slope stabilization projects.

“We have about 32 sites that need some sort of repair work,” Dill said. “We’re trying to get the roadway repaired and then there’s a number of slope stabilization projects in order to get the road to where it once was.”

HDOT had its eye on the slopes at Waikoko before the flooding, Dill said, because some erosion problems were already becoming evident. Workers are moving forward with that plan.

“What we’re doing in that location is a reinforced concrete wall,” Dill said.

The state has also fast-tracked the Haena State Park master plan and if signed by Gov. David Ige, that plan will limit the number of visitors to 900 in the park daily.

Some residents say it’s perfect timing.

“This is a wonderful opportunity,” Flores Almaraz said. “This is a time to reset. It’s been out of balance out here. We’re not anti-tourist or anti-visitor, but it was way out of balance.”

What is helpful for residents is the addition of a 10:30 p.m. Wainiha to Waikoko trip for convoys through the two-mile stretch, with an 11 p.m. Waikoko to Wainihi trip becoming the last trip of the night on weekdays.

“That road, there are a few drop-offs where one lane is gone, but they’re punctual in getting the convoys out on time and everyone is cooperating,” Flores Almaraz said.

She continued: “Before, if I needed to take my car to Lihue for repair, I wouldn’t be able to get back in time. It’s good for everyone.”

  1. manawai May 31, 2018 7:33 am Reply

    “There’s usually this film over the water in the summer months, probably sunscreen,” said Koral McCarthy, who has been working with the Kauai Flood Kokua in Hanalei to help with flood relief. “Now, it’s clear. There’s more fish.”

    GIVE ME A BREAK ! How about we just condemn the whole north shore for you. We could give you all the vacation and second homes, or better yet any house not owned by a BnR local? AND extend the free food delivery service to you forever? How does that sound? (Puff, puff…) No need live Coco Palms any longer making up fake cultural stuff!!!

  2. Joe Public May 31, 2018 10:49 am Reply

    Are these people so vain that they think that they deserve a “gated community” at government expense? The island is for EVERYONE to enjoy, and should not be restrictive to a select few. If you want total seclusion, ask Robinson for permission to reside on Niihau…or Lehua.

  3. Palani May 31, 2018 11:30 am Reply

    I have to be hypocritical here. As an off-island property owner, I have been coming to Kauai for over 50 years, and I have to agree that the area around Haena has evolved quite a bit since the days of Taylor camp, and not for the better. While I still enjoy visiting the North shore, it is no longer as enjoyable, nor as peaceful as it once was, before the development of Princeville and the other resorts. Even visiting the dry cave can be an ordeal. Cars are everywhere, Hanalei is crowded, and Haena has become a huge parking lot. I shudder to think what Hanakapiai must be like.
    Sometimes nature does a “Reset.” Perhaps we should take a lesson from what she’s trying to teach us!

  4. joemaka May 31, 2018 1:47 pm Reply

    Correction on the headline: “A few people in Haena want it all to themselves. And they want the rest of the people to spend a bunch of money helping them.”

  5. David Presley May 31, 2018 9:45 pm Reply

    Population growth is a major human problem, not just for Kauai but for the planet. We can all help by not reproducing like rats. Practice birth control. The State is responsible for the road and I can’t see them blocking it off and offering a shuttle service. I can see them doing the opposite. Expanding the bridges so heavy equipment can get in and allowing more condos and resorts to be built. If you think the reason the State wants to expand the bridges is for “easier access by ambulances” then you need your head examined. They got heavy equipment in just fine after Iniki without 20 ton bridges. The only answer is not allowing these bridges and the Haena State plan should be zero parking stalls. I’m happy to ride my bike down if I want to go to the park.

  6. John Zwiebel June 1, 2018 4:29 pm Reply

    At the risk of hearing “NIMBY”, I surely empathize with the North Shore residents. The last time I was up there, is the last time I’ll ever be up there — for the same reason I don’t go to Disneyland or Las Vegas — Who wants to deal with all the traffic and crowds?

    If you have a 16oz steak, one person might really enjoy it. That enjoyment is hardly diminished if shared with someone else. Even sharing it with 3 other people, you can still enjoy it. But 6, 8, 10 others? No Way.

    There are just “too many people” in the world. It is a choice that those of us who are here have the capacity to change. But if there are no limits, then we deal with the consequences. It isn’t a question of me being here first or whatever you want to call it. It is recognition of the absolute truth that maybe 6 people can fit in the elevator, but 10 or even 12? Let me get off before it breaks down between floors.

  7. Jamo June 2, 2018 4:18 am Reply

    Free Hawaii !!!!!!!!!!

  8. Aikanaka June 3, 2018 9:45 pm Reply

    To joe pubic and the malihini with the Hawaiian stage name-
    “It is better to keep your mouth shut and have everybody assume you are a fool,than to open your mouth and remove all doubt” because you are obviously talking about things that you don’t know about. Because you are both tourists also

  9. Rick June 9, 2018 5:28 am Reply

    Kauai will be able to move past this flooding because of tourism, the state and feds are moving quickly because of the $$ that the state will lose in tourism dollars. I agree, there are a lot of tourists that visit Kauai, but this is also Kauai’s lifeblood. Remove the tourists and the island will suffer, they have brought $4.8 billion to the Hawaiian islands and of that $526 million in Kauai for the first quarter of 2018. I may not be a island local, but if you want peace and quiet it’s not going to be in paradise unless you have the $$ to buy the acres. This may be blunt but, the tourism industry is the primary economy driver directly and indirectly for the island, so don’t crap on the plate you eat from. With this said, i’m sorry that the north shore locals don’t feel at home with crowded beaches and tourists flocking to them from all around the world.
    Unfortunately the majority of tourists are careless and have no respect for anyone else, if they could improve their footprint that they leave behind, all of our world’s natural beauties could last lifetimes.
    Ku’ia kahele aka na’au ha’aha’a

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