State promises emergency work to prevent another Kalihi rock fall

Published: Apr. 16, 2012 at 8:22 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 16, 2012 at 9:38 PM HST
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Blake Oshiro
Blake Oshiro

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – State officials said Monday they plan to do emergency work on the hillside above homes in Kalihi Valley that were damaged when several large boulders fell late last week.

The governor's deputy chief of staff, Blake Oshiro, said since the private landowners don't have the money to quickly remove hazardous boulders that sit precariously above those homes, the state will step in quickly to try to prevent another rock fall and possible disaster.

"I'm not waiting for a disaster to happen.  Because there's no price tag on a life," said Deborah Vicari, a resident of Kula Kolea Place for almost 30 years whose home was slightly damaged Thursday night when several boulders tumbled down the mountain side.

Vicari and about dozen neighborhood residents took their concerns to the governor's office Monday morning.

A state consultant warned them Saturday that another six loose boulders could fall from the hillside above their homes soon.

"One boulder is between a tree, a skinny tree. And where's it gonna land?  I don't know," Vicari told Oshiro, who listened to them in the governor's reception area on the fifth floor of the state capitol.

Oshiro told them the state is working to hire a crew on an emergency contract to remove the immediate risk of more rocks falling.

"There might be something they can do initially and then they can do something in the long term," he said.

The emergency work could cost about $250,000 that would have to be diverted from other more routine rock fall mitigation work that's already planned, Oshiro said.

"The Department of Land and Natural Resources has plans for that money. but they're willing to make this a high priority if we can get a commitment from the legislature that the $250,000 will be replaced," Oshiro said.

State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, who represents the area, pledged to insert an extra quarter million dollars in the DLNR's budget to assure the work can be done soon.  Kim is a member the ways and means committee, the panel that handles money in the State Senate.

"The health and safety of the residents of Kalihi Valley is of utmost importance," Kim said.

Arlene Kahawai is the pastor of Church of Christ of the Redeemed of the Lord, the small church that owns the land from which the boulders fell.

She said her tiny congregation of about 40 people does not have the money for emergency work like this.  The church just took out a loan from First Hawaiian Bank to renovate the building that houses the church, Kahawai said.

State Rep. John Mizuno, who represents the area in the State House, said the state could bill private landowners after it does the emergency work.  He said he was worried about another rock fall happening before emergency repairs happen.

Also at Monday's meeting in the governor's office was John Maemori, whose home was badly damaged Thursday night.

"Everybody's lives are in danger so the sooner they can get something done up there, the safer," Maemori said.

"The sooner the better," said Vicari.  "I want to sleep.  I'm entitled to sleep. and it's to the point, I'm not sleeping."

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