Niu Valley boulder removal gets underway

Photo by Roger Masuoka, DLNR Engineering Division
Photo by Roger Masuoka, DLNR Engineering Division
Ed Teixeira
Ed Teixeira

By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

NIU VALLEY (HawaiiNewsNow) - A neighborhood in Niu Valley was virtually deserted Saturday and Sunday as work continued to remove a boulder, estimated to weigh seven to ten tons, from a ridge above the homes.

A helicopter started flying equipment to the top of the ridge above Haleola Street on Saturday. Crews had mobilized earlier in the morning to start the work, which actually got underway a little late, after a delay involving property where the equipment would be picked up by the chopper.

"the owner had the gate locked, so we had a slight delay in getting a hold of the owner," said Ed Teixeira, vice director of Hawaii Civil Defense. "So we about an hour behind schedule, I think."

By 10 a.m., the chopper had dropped off the last piece of equipment -- a large air compressor -- to the waiting workers.

According to state Civil Defense, the compressor will be used eventually to move the big boulder to a more stable location.

"They (the contractors) have a way to just kinda lift that particular rock up with a lot of netting, and the idea is to take this rock and roll it back," Teixeira said.

It would then be in a location where it could do a lot less harm, facing the other side of the ridge toward Kupaua Place.

"Unlike this slope that you see behind me, the other side of the hill is a more gentle grade going down, and it goes into a ravine, and then the ravine goes out about another 100, 150 yards," Teixeira said.

Even though almost nobody was home, there were some signs of normal activity. A postal worker was allowed to deliver mail, and the Saturday trash pickup went on as usual.

According to the state, all but two families decided to follow the mandatory evacuation order.

"A mandatory evacuation can be enforced," said Teixeira, "but we respect people and their homes. Our attorney general's office even gave us a waiver form that resident can sign if they don't want to leave."

By afternoon, workers had placed temporary straps around the big rock to hold it in place, while below, a civil defense worker and police kept an eye on the neighborhood.

"Should something get loose, we wanna be right there to pound on that door and do what we can to get that particular resident out," Teixeira said.

Even with Saturday's delay, the state is still hoping that the most dangerous work could be done by late Sunday, when residents are scheduled to be allowed to return.

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