An informational meeting last night gave the public an opportunity to question officials from the Department of Land and Natural Resources on the planned harbor ferry improvements for the Kaunakakai Wharf.
Representatives from the DLNR, Wilson Okamoto Corporation and Maui County emphasized that the $5.4 million project will have benefits for Molokai that go beyond the ferry that travels twice a day between Kaunakakai and Lahaina, Maui.
“This project has more widespread benefits than just the ferry,” said DLNR chief engineer Carty Chang, emphasizing improved public safety, aesthetics and the environment.
Maui County Council chairman Danny Mateo briefly addressed the small assembly at Mitchell Pauole Center to clear up concerns and purport the benefits.
Mateo said the harbor is a gateway to Molokai and the hub of our commerce that keeps the “wheels of our economy turning.”
With 80 percent of the project being funded by the Federal Transit Administration, the types of improvements that can be made are limited by the federal guidelines. Mateo said the money allotted cannot be put to other projects, and if Molokai does not use it, another island will.
Earlier in the day, Chang and engineers from Wilson Okamoto addressed concerns expressed by the Molokai Planning Commission in a letter sent in August. It was at the July 14 MoPC meeting that the commissioners developed 39-point response to the Draft Environmental Assessment of the project.
The intrusiveness of a major construction project that will install a 12-inch water main for fire prevention was one of the commissioners’ central concerns. Why couldn’t a smaller line be installed or a salt water fire suppression pump be brought in?
Brian Lock, an engineer for Wilson Okamoto, said a salt water pump would create maintenance expenses, liability risks and was not feasible. “An underground water firefighting system is better,” said Lock.
The commissioners were particularly concerned that the project was spending a lot of money on improving the shelter and adding a new bathroom instead of addressing the parking and traffic problems around the ferry. Through negotiations with Young Brothers, the fence for the inter-island barge service will be moved back 10 feet to allow for two-way traffic to the ferry.
The proposed improvements include a larger buffer area between ferry and barge, a comfort station for waiting ferry passengers, a two-lane entrance/exit into the ferry landing, improved fire protection and wastewater collection.
The new 12-inch water main will run from Kamehameha V Highway out to the harbor. The line from highway to the harbor access, once completed, would be dedicated to Maui County’s Department of Water Supply. This new line would provide the Molokai Veterans Caring for Veterans adequate water for fire protection so that the nightmare process of attaining a building permit might finally come to an end.
Before construction can begin, however, the DLNR must come back to the MoPC and request a Special Management Area assessment. If environmental concerns delay the ferry improvements, the veterans will still be without a building permit.
With the MVCV’s federal lawsuit against Maui County in negotiation — which include claims of post-traumatic mental distress caused by the endless delays in the permitting process — it seems the county is anxious to show its support to the vet center cause.
To that end, Jane Lovell, Maui County attorney representing DWS Director Jeffrey Eng, appeared at the MoPC meeting seeking an SMA exemption for another water line replacement along Kaunakakai Place. This proposal calls for an eight-inch line to replace the current four-inch line in place along the wharf road.
Commissioner John Sprinzel questioned why the county would consider placing a new eight-inch line parallel to the DLNR’s 12-inch water main. “I’ll go along, but if we end up with an eight-inch line next to a 12-inch line you will have so much egg on your face,” said Sprinzell to Lovell.
The commissioners unanimously concurred with the recommendation for the SMA exemption for Maui County.
MoPC Chair Steve Chaikin called it a good backup plan in the event the DLNR project does not go through. If the permitting process goes quickly, construction could begin as soon as August 2011.