Maui roadblock angers residents
The closure cuts off about 80 people from the rest of the island
KIPAHULU, Maui » East Maui residents are outraged that Maui County -- citing the increased threat of rockfalls off a cliffside made unstable by earthquakes two months ago -- has blocked off a portion of coastal highway, cutting about 80 people off from the rest of the island.
Maui Civil Defense Administrator Gen Iinuma said the earthquakes caused significant fracturing of rock faces above the road, which drivers cannot see and which requires that the road be officially closed for safety reasons.
"We need our road back now," said Chuck Boerner, a Kipahulu resident and owner of Ono Organic Farms.
Boerner said he has traveled Piilani Highway for his farming business four times each week for a decade -- a trip that occasionally required him to remove rocks from the road.
But he said he had to move just one rock from the road since the magnitude-6.7 and 6.0 earthquakes Oct. 15.
"This tells me that things are normal and that things are just as dangerous as before," he said.
The county erected concrete barriers to block off parts of Piilani Highway on Dec. 4 -- the same day a quake-damaged bridge connecting the coastal highway further north to Hana was reopened.
On Tuesday county officials announced they had received a report from Geolabs-Hawaii, which was hired to inspect the stability of the cliffs above the roadway.
Iinuma said he is now waiting for additional reports, including archeologists seeking to determine whether there are cultural sites in the area, before officials decide how they will stabilize the cliffs.
"We have this one report, and we're seeking out others to get a better assessment of the situation," he said. "We still need to get information on whether the areas affected hold any cultural or historical significance."
Iinuma said about 80 full-time residents live in the region. Some continue to use the road, crossing the barricades on foot.
Dino Akina of Kaupo said the closure has made it tough for locals to find enough fuel for their vehicles, water and some kinds of food.
The road has always been dangerous, and hazardous conditions are just "a part of life" for East Maui residents, he said.
"As far as I'm concerned, I wish they would just let us go and take our own chances," he said.