Facilities that live up to the cultural significance wanted at Iao Valley park

Restrooms a high priority along with repair of flood damaged infrastructure

State Planning Development Branch Chief Russell Kumabe of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources State Parks Division answers a question Tuesday at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku as Larry Pacheco, Maui District superintendent for the DLNR State Parks Division, looks on. A meeting attended by about 30 people provided information on the next phase of repairs to Iao Valley State Monument, which will have to be closed again. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

WAILUKU — The state Department of Land and Natural Resources hopes to restore restrooms — which have been closed for nearly a decade — at Iao Valley State Monument, officials said Tuesday at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku.

Officials spoke to a crowd of about 30 people during a community workshop that covered current facility and infrastructure improvements to the park water system, restrooms, sewer, parking, security and other future park projects. Staff, engineers and consultants also provided information on the first and second phases of stabilization work resulting from last September’s massive flood that heavily damaged the park.

Officials said the park would be closed from Oct. 16 to Dec. 16 (at the latest) to complete the first phase of stabilization work.

The state park has functioned with a handful of port-a-potties since the restrooms closed in 2009 because of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency violations. There were no fines levied against the state because the closure ensured that no waste was being discharged into the cesspools. The cesspools were shut down in 2015.

The proposed project calls for building a vault containment holding tank and sewer system that would “contain everything” and ensure “there’s no leaching” of sewage into the ground or Wailuku River, said Russell Kumabe, planning and development branch chief of the State Parks Division. He said a new waterline about a mile long would replace the old, broken one. The new waterline would be installed from a pump station near the Hawaii Nature Center to a water tank above the restroom facility.

Maui County Director of Water Supply Dave Taylor (left) talks with Glenn Kuwaye, associate director of civil engineering for Wilson Okamoto Corp., at a community meeting in Wailuku to discuss the next phase of repairs to the Iao Valley State Monument. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“We would incur the operating cost of pumping it (bathroom tank), but in the long term it would provide us at least a permanent facility,” Kumabe said. “It’s a little nicer and at least we’d have a sanitary system.”

There are no hand-washing faucets at the state park because of the broken waterline. That forces visitors and residents to use restrooms at Kepaniwai Park. Kumabe said the state would consider installing facilities for hand washing if the water quality was good enough.

“It’s pretty extensive work because we have to put in a whole new waterline,” he said.

According to an Ask The Mayor column published Oct. 7, 2013, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, through a consent agreement with the EPA, designed a septic treatment sewer system in compliance with the closure requirements several years earlier. However, project construction was delayed because of concerns raised by some residents regarding the appropriateness of a comfort station and sewer system in the area.

“Concerns included the perception that the facilities are a degradation of the cultural significance and spiritual character of Iao Valley and impact cultural resources in the general area,” the department’s statement reads. “State parks staff has been working on addressing these concerns through discussions with concerned residents and the preparation of a report to address the state’s requirement to assess any impacts to archaeological and historical properties in the project area.”

Lifetime Iao Valley resident Kainoa Horcajo poses a question during Tuesday’s meeting at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center on the next step for repairs at Iao Valley State Monument. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Kumabe said the department is addressing residents’ concerns over safety and cultural resources. He said the project is still early in development. Project planning and design are the next steps, followed by seeking bids from contractors.

“We hopefully want to start (construction) in a year,” he said. “As far as when it will be completed, that depends on what parts we put in.”

The remaining work for the first phase includes 210 feet of boulder revetment and an additional 50 feet of shotcrete, which is concrete shot out of a hose. Long-term stabilization plans include a series of 30-foot reinforcing bars, or soil nails, grouted into drilled holes as well as shotcrete that is colored and sculptured to look more natural on the wall.

The park can remain open during the long-term work and will take approximately 14 months and $4.6 million to construct. The first phase’s cost amounts to around $1.8 million.

Concerns over whether buses would able to enter the state park’s parking lot have been resolved, said Larry Pacheco, State Parks Maui District superintendent. State officials initially had concerns about buses making the turn around the lower lot due to the weight of the vehicle and undermining of the lot.

Kala‘iopuna Ohama snoozes through a meeting about state projects in Iao Valley at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center on Tuesday evening in mother Sesame Shima’s arms. Shima said Iao Valley is a sacred place that needs to be protected and wished more local people could be included in the repair process from the flood about one year ago. “For me, there’s so many of us who can’t come to these meetings,” Shima said. “We have busy lives. It’s not a park. It’s a sacred place.” The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“We coordinated with the tour companies, and Roberts Hawaii brought everybody up in their bus and we were able to explain how their routes would be,” Pacheco said. “Everybody was good with it, and we modified things to meet the needs for those buses.”

Residents expressed general concerns over work at the park and overall valley. Several residents of Iao Valley, who suffered from the flood, attended the meeting along with some county officials.

Iao Valley resident Kainoa Horcajo said he is still tending to his family’s 37-acre property, which has taken a lot of “time and money.” He said his home is no longer in “immediate physical danger, but I think everybody in the valley is interested in how this wet season goes.”

“The water came very close to our home and washed away our yard,” he said. “I’m still picking clothes and people’s trash out of our property all the time.”

Horcajo said he and other residents make sure to attend flood-related meetings organized by the state and county. Residents believe they are the “unifying thread” between the two groups, he said.

“This place is important to a lot of people, and so we just want to be here to be in the know and understand what’s going on,” he said. “The only way we work as a community is being involved and effective in what we do. By speaking to the right people, asking the right questions and knowing the process.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.


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