Pilot Joe Allen of Pacific Helicopters picked up an 800-pound, 200-foot roll of wire netting yesterday on the hillside above Lalea townhouse development in Hawaii Kai. Allen and Pacific's main pilot, Howard Esterbrook, took turns working with Prometheus Construction workers to cover the hillside with the mesh.

Lalea residents
breathe easier
with netting
secured to hillside

Rosalind Chun said she feared more boulders would fall from the hillside behind her Hawaii Kai home after huge rocks crashed into two vehicles at the Lalea townhouse subdivision last Thanksgiving.

Chun said her mind was put to ease yesterday after watching a helicopter lower sheets of wire mesh to workers who draped it over the hillside to prevent further rockslides.

"I feel more safe. I feel more secure," said Chun.

Workers from Royal Contracting, Prometheus Co. and Earth Tech Inc. started the second phase of the rockfall mitigation project yesterday. Fifty panels of wire netting were installed in the upper half of the hillside yesterday and another 50 are expected to be installed in the lower half of the hillside today.

Kekoa Paulsen, spokesman for landowner Kamehameha Schools, said the second phase of the project is expected to be completed in October so displaced residents can return to their homes for Thanksgiving.

Boulders damaged two cars at Lalea during a Thanksgiving night rainstorm. A rock also smashed into the second-story window of a unit while a family was eating dinner.

A Prometheus Construction worker fastened the wire mesh to the rocky hillside yesterday. The company also worked on wire netting on the hillside near Makapuu earlier this year.

Residents of 26 units in buildings 7130 and 7168 were advised to immediately evacuate because of the possibility that boulders could smash into their homes.

The netting is epoxy-coated and made of stainless steel. Paulsen added that each panel is measured at 12 feet wide and 200 feet long, weighing 830 pounds.

Aldaran Nikou, senior civil engineer for Earth Tech Inc., said the wire mesh is similar to the ones installed at Makapuu. The sides of each panel will be stitched to other panels with stainless steel rope to cover five acres of the hillside.

In September, workers will install a heavier stainless steel cable netting over the wire mesh netting and staple both together with stainless steel clips.

Nikou said it is believed that this is the first time in the nation that the stainless steel cable netting of its size will be installed. The netting was coated black to blend into the hillside.

"It's not noticeable," said Chun.

Nikou said if a rockslide occurs after the layered wire mesh and cable netting is installed, it will cause rocks to move "very slowly" against the mesh to the bottom of the hill.

The first phase of the project was completed at the end of June that included the widening and deepening of an existing drainage ditch. Costs for the entire rockfall mitigation project is estimated between $3 million and $4 million.

Residents from 17 units near the hillside were cleared from their homes yesterday while workers installed the netting. Residents were allowed to return to their homes after 5 p.m.

"Everything is on track," said Philip Nerney, who represents the homeowners' association. "Everybody has been committed to enable the return of the residents and all of our efforts seem to be paying off."


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