MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Under pressure from outraged Manoa residents, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources agreed to place a controversial dredging and tree cutting project on hold.
"We will hold off on work before we've had the opportunity to have more conversations," said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case.
About 50 Manoa residents, including former Gov. Neil Abercrombie, met with Case and several of her deputies at the Manoa Stream next to the University of Hawaii faculty housing complex on Woodlawn Drive.
Many criticized the state for not giving them enough notice on the project, which will cut down dozens of trees along the mauka bank of the stream and will store tons of soil dredged up from the stream on the faculty housing project's lawn.
State officials have conceded that the soil contains traces of pesticides and many residents worry that the toxic substances could be ingested or breathed in by their children.
"Are we going to have to get our kids fit tested for respirators … just so they can come outside and play?" said Manoa resident Michelle Bisbee, who lives at the faculty housing complex.
Abercrombie blasted state officials for not being transparent enough.
"Why in today's world, in the world of 2018, it never occurred to anybody in the University or somewhere else, maybe we should let the people who are affected by this know about it," Abercrombie said.
The state officials said the dredging project is needed to help prevent flooding in the area. They added that their contractor needs to cut down the trees so that their excavators could get close enough to the stream to dig it up.
State officials added they plan to surround the toxic sludge that they store with a six-foot tall fence and line it with a plastic cover.
But in the end, Case told the residents that the department will put a hold on the project pending further public input.
Manoa resident Kieko Matteson said the state made the right decision.
"I'm really really relived that they put it on pause for the moment but I think we have to keep the pressure on, quite frankly," Matteson said.