PRINCEVILLE — As work continues to repair Kuhio Highway after the landslide last week above the Hanalei Bridge, officials gathered for a blessing of the site early Thursday morning.
On March 10, a landslide buried a portion of Kuhio Highway, cutting off the only roadway accessing North Shore communities of Hanalei, Wainiha and Ha‘ena.
The Rev. Wayne Vidinha of Ke Akua Mana Church presided over the event, blessing the site and those working on the project, including those with the state Department of Transporation, construction contractors and officials.
Gov. David Ige, in his first trip off O‘ahu in over a year due to the pandemic, stood with Mayor Derek Kawakami as light rain fell during the blessing.
“We have a lot of damage from the rain events,” Ige said afterward. “We’re seeing more severe rain events happening that obviously create landslide issues and other issues in and around especially-remote areas that create challenges for the community.”
Part of Ige’s official trip included stops at the Kaua‘i Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Operations Center in Lihu‘e, and various sites from Princeville to Ha‘ena.
“I wanted to come out and see the damaged area and work with the Department of Transportation and make sure that we can safely provide access to the community,” Ige said. “We need to make sure we can make quick and safe action to provide access.”
Pictures, Ige said, are no comparison to being on the ground.
“I didn’t realize how steep that slope is,” Ige said. “(I can) certainly recognize the danger that is involved. Clearly, we understand (with) the severe rain events that landslides are always a possibility.”
Single-lane, emergency use of Kuhio Highway has been restored for critical services, including refuse, utility-service repair, fire suppression, postal services and delivery of essential supplies like medicine and food.
DOT officials estimated a scheduled or limited public access to start on Saturday, according to a county press release.
“We’re finalizing some details now about how (to open the highway to the public), and hopefully by the end of the week we can start letting the public know in a very-controlled fashion,” said Larry Dill, DOT Kaua‘i District engineer.
County Managing Director Michael Dahilig said the county is using the 2018 flood event as a baseline, and this time around there isn’t as much of a learning curve.
“It seems like it’s becoming more of an occurrence for these types of events, but I’m confident and comfortable that … you guys can overcome these types of situations,” Kaua‘i County Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro said. “It’s comforting to know that you’re getting the work done.”
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.