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Protesters block work on Oahu subdivision drainage project

HONOLULU (AP) — A protest by neighbors of an Oahu housing development has stopped construction crews from completing the subdivision’s drainage project, which demonstrators believe will harm marine wildlife.

Residents say the project in Maili on the island’s west coast will discharge polluted storm water into the Mailiili Stream channel, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

The $300,000 drainage project was designed to serve the 52 units of the the Hawaiian Community Development Board’s Hale Makana o Maili affordable-housing project.

The target completion date for the $22 million apartment complex is about a month away, but the drainage project has been suspended pending a resolution.

Neighbors filed a lawsuit saying the project’s density threatened to overwhelm the rural neighborhood. The lawsuit was dismissed but has been appealed.

The Mailiili Stream meets the sea on the north side of Maili Beach Park. Protesters said the drainage could ruin a natural estuary habitat where residents have fished and enjoyed viewing sea turtles, native birds and other creatures for generations.

“It’ll kill the environment of the stream,” said neighbor Michele Kuahine, who held a Nov. 2 vigil with about 15 others to protest the unfinished concrete structure. “This is an irreplaceable natural resource that must be protected.”

Hawaiian Community Development Board Executive Director Kali Watson said the off-site drainage system was not part of the original design, but resident and city representatives asked the developer to address chronic flooding.

A city budget allocation for the project was later cut. The company instead moved forward with a proposal approved by the city.

“We were trying to be the good guys in this situation,” Watson said. “They’re making it out like it’s going to be an environmental disaster, but it’s not.”

The state Department of Health has directed the developer to remove about 80 sandbags placed in the stream to prevent excavation runoff. Watson said he also was asked to look into additional permitting requirements by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

As the drainage project is held up, Watson said he has considered abandoning the effort and returning to the original on-site drainage plan.