WAILUA HOMESTEADS — The Keahua bridge at Loop Road is still closed, and state officials are working with an engineering company on the final estimation of the cost to fix it.
Loop Road is a gathering place for residents to enjoy with their families. It’s a favorite spot for hunters. Teens are often found jumping off of the swinging rope while their families park their trucks and pop up tents close by.
Sheri Mann, state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife Kaua‘i branch manager, said there is no projected reopening date at this time.
“There are no estimated costs available right now, but we are in the process of executing a contract with a structural-engineering company that will be providing a full report that includes construction cost estimates,” said Mann.
“Once we have that, we can start trying to find the funding for this. Once we have the funding, we can start the procurement process to purchase and ship the materials needed to Kaua‘i and eventually get the bridge repaired.”
She continued: “With our ultra-restrictive financial forecast that we are expecting in our next fiscal year due to COVID, I would estimate at least a year, if not more, that the bridge is closed, and thus access to the Lihu‘e-Koloa Forest Reserve severely restricted.”
According to Mann, the road is closed at the bridge due to the March 2020 flood event that impacted much of the Eastside. Beyond the bridge, DOFAW has been working with contractors (funded by Act 12 funds from the April 2018 flood events) to repair the damaged Wailua access road (aka Loop Road).
“Unfortunately, much of the work done to repair the Loop Road damage from 2018 was almost completed when the recent flood damaged occurred. There is massive sediment and debris in the stream mauka of the road that is causing a diversion of the natural stream flow, which in turn is causing continuous damage to the road,” said Mann.
DOFAW is hoping to remove the debris and restore the natural flow of the stream so that the existing culverts will become functional again, but until they can get the Keahua bridge repaired so vehicles can cross it safely, all construction repairs have stopped until they can get the bridge repaired. No other access to Loop Road has been deemed possible at this time.
Mann said the Lihu‘e Koloa Wailua section of the forest reserve is an important area for the local and tourist public, and it reaches all the way up to the Blue Hole. There are also important mature timbers in this area that need attention and/or planning to convert to something else.
“Currently, the only way into or out of these vast areas is over the Keahua bridge via Loop Road. We would very much like to diversify the public’s ability to get into and out of these lands in the future, but at this time this is not an option,” said Mann.
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.