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Thursday, March 9, 2000

Gov declares state of emergency at Waimea

He says the declaration will speed
construction of a temporary road
and walkway at Waimea Bay

Public meeting tonight at Sunset Beach school

By Pat Omandam
and Gregg K. Kakesako


Gov. Ben Cayetano said today he will declare a state of emergency on the North Shore, thereby allowing officials to bypass usual permit procedures and speed the reopening of a portion of Kamehameha Highway, above Waimea Bay, that has been closed since a rockslide early Monday morning.

Cayetano said the state is working to build a temporary road along a sandbar at the mouth of Waimea Stream. That would allow limited traffic -- all but heavy vehicles, such as buses and trucks -- to bypass the blocked roadway.

A pedestrian walkway also is being planned so that people do not have to trudge through the sand to get from one side of Waimea Bay to the other.

Star-Bulletin file photo
Ted Nakamura of Ted's Bakery says he "can handle (the roadblock)
for now, but if it goes for months, they're going to have people
breaking up. ... I hope and pray they get this thing fixed quick."

Buses and shuttles are being assigned to assist schools and residents affected by the road closure.

Cayetano said the state and military have found about one-third of the pierced steel planking needed to build the temporary road and will probably search the mainland for the rest of the material.

State officials had asked the military to provide 1,000 feet of planking to build the temporary road. The request was submitted to U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii, which acts as the military's clearinghouse for state aid, said state Civil Defense spokeswoman Barbara Hendrie.

Besides providing material, the state also wants to know if the military can help lay down the temporary road, said Capt. Rich Spiegel, Army spokesman at Schofield Barracks. The answer was not immediately known.

Another option is to open an old military road mauka of the cliff face that state and military crews were inspecting this morning, he said. The state understands the concerns of the North Shore community and is taking extra precautions, just as it did with the Sacred Falls rockslide on Mother's Day last year, Cayetano told reporters.

He noted a 1987 report recommended installing chain-link fences as a barrier to rockslides, but that would not have worked in this case, Cayetano said.

"It is very difficult to predict what nature will do," he said.

Sam Callejo, Cayetano's chief of staff, toured the area with consultants this morning. The state's long-term plan is to scale back the cliff, which is on private property, he said.

The state already has talked to the property owner about the problem, which may lead to "friendly condemnation" of the property, Callejo said.

Officials to brief residents tonight

Meanwhile, state Transportation Director Kazu Hayashida is scheduled to brief North Shore residents and businesses at 7 tonight about the status of stabilizing the rockslide area and the prospects of reopening the blocked road.

The meeting at Sunset Beach Elementary School was set for next week but was moved up to address concerns sooner. The state now estimates "it will take up to four months to do the repair work" on the cliff, Hendrie said.

The state has hired Earth Tech Inc. engineering consultants to advise on how to bring down an overhanging shelf of rock that still threatens Kamehameha Highway, and expects to have a contractor signed on to do the work by Monday, said Department of Transportation spokeswoman Marilyn Kali.

The department has been barraged with calls from businesses that depend on circle-island traffic, and from residents whose travel between home and work or school has been affected by the roadblock.

Star-Bulletin file photo
Ted's Bakery co-owner Glenn Nakamura says the Sunset
Beach shop is seeing a 50 percent drop in sales
of its popular pies.

The owners of Ted's Bakery in Sunset Beach, famous for its cream pies, have stories typical of the emergency state that exists on the north side of Oahu. Co-owner Glenn Nakamura said the shop is seeing a 50 percent drop in sales of its pies, "which is the thing people come from around the island to get."

Nakamura lives in Wahiawa, which has become a 90-minute commuter ride via Windward Oahu and the H-3, H-1 and H-2 freeways.

But he acknowledged that the company is doing better than many of its neighbors because 80 percent of its pie sales are in outlets around the island.

His brother, Ted Nakamura, who lives in Sunset Beach, said he "can handle it for now, but if it goes for months, they're going to have people breaking up."

"My daughter goes to school in Waialua. I take her across the sand at Waimea Beach Park, where the principal comes and picks her up and three other students. She brings them back, and I have to walk across sand again," he said.

"My wife teaches at Wahiawa. It takes her two hours to get to work. My employee lives in Waialua, leaves her car at Waimea and walks across the sand and is picked up at the church on this side by another employee. I hope and pray they get this thing fixed quick."

Star-Bulletin reporter Mary Adamski contributed to this report.

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