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Fenced in


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POSTED: Saturday, April 25, 2009

Question: Can you find out why the Board of Water Supply was allowed to erect a garish fence on the west slope of Diamond Head? This large fence mars the beauty of Diamond Head and is particularly visible to anyone driving up Campbell Avenue. Did BWS get permits? And why is there no public hearing when something of this magnitude is built on our most famous landmark?

Answer: The Board of Water Supply did obtain a permit from the city Department of Planning and Permitting to install the fence around its Diamond Head 180' Reservoir (the 180' means the top of the reservoir is 180 feet above mean sea level).

The permit was secured with the concurrence of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, said Wayne Hashiro, BWS's manager and chief engineer.

He said the fence was erected to safeguard an important water supply facility as well as to keep people away from the site, built along a steep cliff face.

However, officials with DLNR's State Parks Division, which has jurisdiction over the state monument, were not aware of the fence until after it went up in December. And they apparently did not learn of the Conservation and Coastal Lands' approval until recently.

That office reviewed and approved the fence construction under conservation district rules in August, DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward said Thursday. DLNR did not require a permit because the reservoir is a nonconforming structure, built before conservation district regulations took effect in 1964. The fence is exempt from permit requirements as an accessory structure.

Both the State Parks Division and The Outdoor Circle voiced concerns about the visual impact of the fence after it was erected.

While there are no plans to remove the fence, there apparently will be an attempt to camouflage it. Exactly when and how that will happen is not yet known.

Hashiro said that while BWS “;will appropriately address”; the concerns, it will do so with public safety and ensuring a supply of safe and secure drinking water in mind.

Parks Division officials had told BWS that staff, as well as volunteers from the Diamond Head State Monument Foundation, were willing to paint and/or weave camouflage material into “;the shiny new metal”; fence, Ward told us earlier.

They said they could carry this out within 60 days, she said, but there was no response for nearly three months.

In mid-March, Ward said both DLNR and The Outdoor Circle were informed that the Board was obtaining a cost estimate to paint the fence. BWS said it might also decide to consider other alternatives, such as letting vegetation cover the fence.

DLNR's coordinator for Diamond Head suggested that, since it would probably take awhile for vegetation to grow, volunteers could do the painting, saving BWS money and addressing the situation faster, Ward said.

But Hashiro told us Thursday that, after evaluating liability and safety aspects, BWS had to decline the offer.

The Outdoor Circle got involved in February after receiving several complaints about the fence, including one from a resident who said it is clearly visible from Manoa, said Bob Loy, director of environmental programs.

Not only is Diamond Head Hawaii's “;most recognized landmark,”; Loy said, “;it also is a protected state monument that has been needlessly defaced by a metal fence erected by a government agency.”;

“;After five months of repeated complaints and generous offers to take care of the problem it created, the BWS has failed to resolve the issue.”;

BWS should “;be more sensitive to the impacts of its facilities on the beauty of Hawaii and more responsive to concerns raised by the residents of Oahu,”; Loy said.

But from BWS's standpoint, “;Public safety and protection of our water supply are of the highest importance,”; Hashiro said.

Mahalo

To a woman in Kailua who, last February, paid for my puppy piddle pads at Longs in Kailua. I didn't have enough money to pay for it and she was in line behind me. I didn't get her name and number to thank her formally or to reimburse her. Mahalo nui loa to a good Samaritan.—Beth Pagle


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