RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The second floor of Kewalo Basin's fishing shed, once a vibrant part of the commercial harbor, lies empty and idle.
State backs demolition of Kewalo fishing shed
An activist group aims to save the run-down building and ice chute
An activist group is fighting the state's proposed demolition of an old ice chute and shed in hopes of preserving Kewalo Basin's fishing history.
The state has said the dilapidated shed, which stored fishing gear and ice until 1978, does not have historic value and is unsafe for the children's educational program located outside the building.
Dan Dinnell, executive director of the Hawaii Community Development Authority, said the state Department of Land and Natural Resources has determined that "the building is not historic," and the Department of Health says environmental hazards exist.
At a news conference yesterday, Dinnell said the HCDA has already offered a much safer, more appropriate alternative site for the Kewalo Keiki Fishing Conservancy to operate its programs.
Scott Furushima, who ran the program that was kicked out in April, is a member of the protesting group, Save Our Kewalo Basin.
Michelle Matson, spokeswoman for the group, said they were given until yesterday to dismantle and move the shed and chute, which would not survive the move, according to the group's engineer and architect.
The group has asked to meet with DLNR Director Peter Young and other officials to discuss a conservation and restoration plan but has not heard back, said Matson at a news conference held an hour after the state's.
Matson said the state Historic Preservation Division, in a letter dated April 3, determined that the shed and chute were culturally significant and deserve to be preserved.
"However, after a meeting with the HCDA, the division bowed to HCDA's pressure to remove the historic structures from the site," she said.
Dinnell said "we're at a loss" as to what more the state can do to appease the group, which maintains the program "must be here, when nothing could be further from the truth," he said.
Dinnell said the state has proposed an alternative site across the cove in the "net shed" where fishermen dry their nets, where electricity, water and restroom facilities will be available. The alternative site would also be safer than at the ice shed, where there are no railings for safeguards next to the water and no way for anyone who falls in to climb out, he said.
Davis Bernstein of the state Office of Hazard Evaluation & Emergency Response said the shed is standing on an area that was a former incinerator and landfill. The soil is contaminated with arsenic, lead and petroleum residues, he said.
The problem can be safely addressed, but it should "not be accessible to the public until it is done," Bernstein said.
Matson said the state's contention that the area is "horribly contaminated" is "a lie," citing a memo from Bernstein, dated July 6, 2004, that said contamination was "not serious ... and no remedial work is needed to protect the public health and environment."
Since the keiki fishing program began with public and private schools in 2004, no harm has come to the hundreds of children involved, she said.