Remnants from Lane lengthen timeline for Kuhio Highway emergency repairs

Remnants from Lane lengthen timeline for Kuhio Highway emergency repairs
Updated: Sep. 4, 2018 at 7:43 PM HST
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HANALEI, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Emergency repairs to Kuhio Highway suffered a serious setback due to remnants from Tropical Cyclone Lane. Families on Kauai's north shore were already struggling to get their lives back to normal after historic flooding several months ago.

The National Weather Service said that flooding last week in that area at times approached the level seen during April's record-breaking event, especially in Wainiha Valley and Hanalei Valley. Crews were in the middle of tackling repairs at 32 sites along the highway.

"(The additional damage) was primarily within our work site, but it also brought additional flood debris to areas that were previously cleared," said Shelly Kunishige, a spokesperson for the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

The work, which includes removing loose rocks from slopes, was supposed to be finished by October.

"Beneath the slopes we're doing retaining walls with soil nails as well as shotcrete which they spray concrete on the slopes," Kunishige explained.

The state is now reassessing the timeline and the $80 million price tag. The limited local access to Wainiha and Haena will likely continue until the end of the year.

"Everybody is still in disaster mode down here and it kind of came back again," said Kauai resident Pat Medeiros. "People think the hurricane passed, but it's actually pretty bad down here."

Kuhio Highway is prone to landslides.

"It was built into a mountainside with a lot of you call cut-in filling, which means that where there were slopes, they were made steeper in some parts," explained Horst Brandes, a professor of geotechnical engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. "So you have oversteepened slopes there that have become more prone to sliding."

The state's top 10 list for rockfall mitigation includes two sites on Kuhio Highway that were affected by flooding.

Kunishige said it can be challenging to get mitigation work done unless there's an emergency.

"Some of it is funding. Some of it is also environmental clearances, those concerns, because typically when we do pursue environmental clearances, it takes up to three years," said Kunishige.

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