By Wendy Osher
Two weeks after heavy rains undermined the Hanawana Bridge in East Maui, residents cut off by the partial collapse are nervous about ongoing erosion, but thankful that repairs have been expedited and are set to start next week.
“I can see how much we’ve actually been losing by looking through the pictures over the last week,” said Hanawana resident Regina McLain.
“Today we were supposed to get a heavy rain, and every day we’re nervous about what that means and how much of the road we’re going to loose; so we’re very grateful that the county is going to be starting work on Tuesday,” said McLain.
McLain was among 40 Hanawana residents who were cut off from transit on March 8-9, when heavy rains overnight undermined the bridge.
“We were having serious storms all over Maui County and one of our neighbors actually was leaving that evening; and just as he crossed over the land bridge, this actually collapsed,” said McClain who pointed to a gap in the road that broke away, falling about 100 feet to the stream below.
McLain joined fellow residents of the area at the bridge on Friday afternoon, where Sen. J. Kalani English (who represents District 6, which includes Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Moloka’i, Lana’i and Kaho’olawe) briefed them on repairs and progress at the state level.
“In government, for a project like this to start in two weeks is a miracle,” said Sen. English, who said collaboration between the state and county has been moving at “lighting speed.”
“The governor did a supplementary declaration of disaster for Maui County, which included Hanawana and all of the damage going out towards Hana,” said Sen. English.
“This is important because it allows for the release of state monies immediately,” said English.
Part of the initial frustration was confusion over jurisdiction, as the state DLNR claimed ownership of the land, but not the bridge that sits on top of it.
Officials explained that the bridge is defined as a “road in limbo,” not claimed by the county or the state.
As a new state in 1963, Sen. English explained that the government passed an ordinance to deliniate roads. The state identified roads that were under its jurisdiction; and the counties accepted other unclaimed roads by ordinance; but many roads were left unclaimed because of liability, substandard conditions, and the resulting financial burden.
“That led us to where we are now, where we have hundreds of roads in limbo,” said Sen. English.
The county obtained a right of entry from the state to realign the road, and was working on an Emergency SMA Permit last week.
Rough preliminary estimates have placed projected costs at $240,000, but exact costs were pending further assessment of the area.
Residents of the area expressed gratitude for the priority status given to the project. “It’s only a matter of time before something happens and somebody gets hurt, so to expedite this project was very important,” said Hanawana resident, Keith Douglas.
“It’s a small community, but the road is a main artery to the kuleana parcels down here,” said Douglas.
“We are very grateful for driving this and helping us, because it really has been–we didn’t know what we were going to do. We really didn’t,” said McLain.