Couch Seeks 60-Day Halt on Honoapi’ilani Seawall Construction
Maui County Councilmember Don Couch is requesting an immediate 60-day moratorium on the construction of a seawall along the Honoapi’ilani Highway at Olowalu.
He was among those who wrote to the governor expressing their concerns on Friday. In his letter to the Governor, Couch said he wanted a moratorium on the seawall construction, so that “an easier, more effective and less invasive alternative can be presented.”
The complete text of Couch’s letter to the governor is posted below:
This letter serves as an official request that you direct the State Department of Transportation to immediately cease placing boulders along the Honoapi’ilani Highway shoreline about four miles south of Lahaina and about one-half mile north of Olowalu on Maui for a period of 60 days.
The work is being done under an emergency appropriation that was declared by Governor Abercrombie four years ago in an effort to stop erosion of the highway which is the most critical and main connector between West Maui and the rest of the island.
Speaking with engineers in my role as a Maui County Council Member, and also as the Chair of the Maui County Council Planning Committee, and after the committee’s investigation regarding the efficacy of seawalls and their environmental impact on ocean currents and beach erosion (and in this case this critical road), it is my belief that it is imperative a halt to the ongoing work be issued so that what I believe to be an easier, more effective and less invasive alternative can be presented.
There is an unused cane haul road mauka of the highway that could, without incurring costs in excess of those already appropriated, be used to solve the problem on the designated one-eighth to one quarter-of-a-mile stretch of highway. This former plantation road has been used many times over the years to divert traffic due to washouts, fires and/or accidents. What I am proposing is that the cane haul road becomes the northbound (Lahaina bound) traffic lane.
That way southbound traffic can use what had been the northbound lane and what had been the southbound lane can be designated a natural buffer zone ensuring a wide protective distance between the ocean and the highway. This buffer will likely last for a number of years during which we, as a group (state officials, county officials and community members) can move forward with the re-alignment of Honoapi’ilani Highway from the Pali tunnel to the proposed terminus of the Lahaina bypass which happens to be less than a mile from this section of the road in question.
The ongoing emergency boulder-fix has taken four years to get underway. I contend that waiting another 60 days during which a more viable and environmentally sound solution can be presented is reasonable and prudent. It is my understanding that the concern by the SDOT is that the process to move the lanes would take too long due to environmental studies. Let us not allow the process to get in the way of doing what’s right environmentally.
As it now stands, if a big storm took out the highway in the area where the work is being done, the cane road would become the alternate route in any case. In other words it would become exactly what I’m suggesting. If we can show within 60 days an easier, more environmentally sensitive and more permanent solution to that compromised section of highway, then it behooves us to do so. I’m requesting a 60-day moratorium on the ongoing work in order to prove the merits of this alternate routing.
I am also requesting that there be more discussion regarding the other proposed emergency fixes planned in the near future. Those fixes will be detrimental to the whole Pali to Puamana coastline which is one of the main attractions to our visitors and, more importantly, home to a significant reef system that has been shown to be crucial to Maui’s entire reef system and beyond. This discussion needs to be taking place now while there is still time to do the right thing. Let’s break the bureaucratic mold and use common sense to come up with innovative and mutually beneficial solutions.