Saturday, July 24, 1999

Resolution team wraps up
Kauai runway hearings

By Anthony Sommer


LIHUE -- A four-member team from the state Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution has wrapped up hearings to determine whether they can mediate the growing controversy over lengthening the Kauai Airport's main runway to handle jumbo jets.

The state is proposing lengthening the runway from 6,500 feet to 8,000 or 10,000 feet.

Currently, jumbo jets can fly to Kauai from the mainland but they can't take off with a full fuel load. An identical debate has raged on Maui for six years.

The center -- a recently created arm of the court system -- was invited into the fray by the Kauai County Council when an attempt to slide a resolution endorsing a longer runway through the Council touched off angry opposition from anti-growth forces on the island.

If the mediation team didn't get a full picture, it certainly took home a big batch of snapshots, some rather revealing.

'If you add one millimeter
to that runway, I'm going to
be really unhappy.'

Andy Parks


Retired Navy Capt. Bob Mul-lins, a former Pacific Missile Range Facility commander and former chief aide to Mayor Mary-anne Kusaka, suggested a public vote on lengthening the runway. The Kauai County Charter allows for initiative measures on the ballot, but the process almost never is used.

That brought Steve Kyono, who runs the Kauai office of the state Highways Division, to his feet. Kyono warned that public votes on a public works project could "set a bad precedent" and interfere with all kinds of government plans.

Straw votes among those who attended showed that they were about equally divided for and against lengthening the runway, with businesses favoring jumbo jets and environmental groups opposing them.

That deep division brought an observation from public access television social critic Andy Parks that there didn't seem much room for compromise.

"If you add one millimeter to that runway, I'm going to be really unhappy," he told the mediators. "But if you don't lengthen the runway, those people over there (the business community on the other side of the room) are going to be unhappy.

"It seems like an either-or situation, and I'm not sure what we're doing here."

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