Hanalei-to-Ha’ena Community Association Comments on Draft General Plan

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Hanalei-Haʹena Community Association Post Office Box 1072
Hanalei, HI 96714

December 14, 2017

Kaua‘i County Planning Department Attn: Long Range Division
4444 Rice Street, Suite A473 Lihue, HI 96766.

Re: Hanalei-to-Ha’ena Community Association Comments on Draft General Plan ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Board of Directors of the Hanalei-to-Ha’ena Community Association (“HHCA”) submits the following comments and concerns regarding the November 2016 Discussion Draft of the Kauai General Plan (“Draft”).

I. Tourism

Tourism is an important part of Kauai’s economy; but the Kauai economy’s over-reliance on ever-increasing growth in tourism is an existential threat to the character of the Hanalei-Wainiha-Ha’ena area, and to the safety and quality of life of residents of the area.

Island-wide, the ratio of tourists-to-residents exceeds 40% for much of the year.1 But the situation in the Hanalei-Wainiha-Ha’ena area is far more extreme. The resident population in this area is less than 1500 people.2 If even as few as 6% of the tourists on Kauai on an average day visit the north shore, they can double the population of the Hanalei-Wainiha-Ha’ena area. The area’s infrastructure is not capable of handling this; the area’s rural character and quality of life are compromised by this; and safe, rapid evacuation of the tsunami zone is made impossible by this.

  • Tourist traffic is overwhelming the Hanalei-Wainiha-Ha’ena area’s roads and bridges, beach and parks, parking capacity, commercial centers and neighborhoods.

  • Expanding tourist activities and services are crowding out residents at local beach parks (for example, Black Pot and Ke’e) and beaches (for example, Makua).

  • Hanalei, Wainiha and Ha’ena have been converted (through the proliferation of illegal and grandfathered TVRs and B&Bs, made worse by poorly-regulated transient rental websites such as AirBnB) into de facto resort areas, leaving fewer and fewer residences available for residents.

  • Safe evacuation of the Hanalei-Wainiha-Ha’ena tsunami zone is not possible when it needs to be done quickly, due to the very large and ever-increasing number of tourists and tourist vehicles west of Princeville.

    1The 2015 Average Daily Visitor Census (ADVC) was 24,388; the 2015 Kauai population was approximately 71,000; during the 4 peak months of the year, the ADVC is 10% - 15% higher than the annual average ADVC. Therefore, for much of the year, the ADVC increases Kauai’s population by 37% - 39%, and even more on the peak days of those months.

    2 The 2010 census for Hanalei District 401.04 stated that the district’s population was 1,344.

 

The Draft projects only an additional 8.5% increase in Average Daily Visitor Census (ADVC) over the next 20 years (just 0.4% per year). This is an amount which in itself is already problematic as the present ADVC exceeds desirable levels. But based on the past 5 years’ average ADVC growth rate of 4.6% per year, it is very clear that this 8% per two decades projection is unrealistically low, and that the problems that will be created if uncontrolled tourism growth is allowed to continue will be unmanageable.

The Draft’s five tourism-related “Permitting Actions and Code Changes” (page 2-66) propose to focus new resort development within the existing VDAs. We of course support this reaffirmation of the purpose of the VDAs. We also support the related recommendations (in Table 4-4) to not increase the amount of Resort zoning in the future. But these actions would do very little to reign in tourism growth over the next 20 years, as there would still be more than more than 3,700 unbuilt visitor units in the VDAs.

The most significant problem with the Draft is that it proposes no policies, no targets, and no actions to try to limit tourism and tourism growth to desirable, manageable, sustainable levels. Instead, the Draft’s strategy is to accommodate, facilitate and encourage more tourism growth. Even more disconcerting, the Draft has no prescription for what to do when its extremely unlikely forecast of just 0.4% tourism growth per year is exceeded.

We therefore believe that it is very important that the General Plan redirect the County’s tourism policies and actions from the current “come-one, come-all” boosterism of tourism, to a set of policies and actions focused on discouraging any increase in the number of tourists beyond the current ADVC.

In addition to keeping matters from becoming worse, high priority must be given to implementing measures to reverse the damage that has already occurred, and to restore to Hanalei-Wainiha-Ha’ena the balance, rural character, quality of life and safety that have been lost under the existing General Plan. The harmful impacts of the existing level of tourism in Hanalei-Wainiha-Ha’ena must be reduced. This requires decreasing tourism’s traffic and parking impacts, returning our neighborhoods to residential uses, and restoring the public’s ability to safely evacuate the tsunami hazard zone.

We therefore recommend that the Draft be revised to incorporate the following:

  1. The General Plan’s “Vision and Goals” should state that tourism-related development on Kauai should be limited to a level that does not exceed Kauai’s infrastructure capacity, does not threaten Kauai’s rural character, and does not degrade residents’ quality of life.

  2. The General Plan should adopt the policy that to protect Kauai’s communities and rural character and residents’ quality of life, County government will use all measures at its disposal to discourage any increase in the Average Daily Visitor Census beyond its current (2016) level.

  3. The Draft’s proposed tourism policy should be amended to state that: “The policy of the General Plan is to uphold Kauai as a unique visitor destination by focusing on revitalization, limiting new resort growth and other tourism-related development to existing Visitor Destination Areas, and limiting the Average Daily Visitor Census to its current (2016) level.”

  4. The General Plan must include concrete actions to achieve these tourism growth management policy goals. Those actions should include the following:

 

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  1. (a)  Increase taxes on rental vehicles; increase property taxes on resorts, TVRs and B&Bs; and obtain and use authority from the state to increase the Transient Accommodation Tax.

  2. (b)  Confine all new tourism-related uses, including tourism-related accommodations, attractions and retail uses, to the existing VDAs.

  3. (c)  Do not permit any expansion of tourism-related uses or commercial activities on public lands or facilities.

  4. (d)  Phase-out non-conforming TVRs outside the VDAs (seeking amendments to HRS 46-4 if necessary); strictly enforce against, and close, non-permitted and out-of- compliance transient rentals (TVRs and B&B’s); and take strong action as soon as possible to deal with the enforcement challenges created by on-line transient accommodation websites such as AirBnB.

  5. (e)  Redirect any County tourism promotion, and work to redirect the state’s tourism promotion for Kauai, towards tourism that will not increase the ADVC and will reduce the negative impacts of the existing ADVC. This includes eliminating County funding and subsidies for activities or events that are primarily tourism- focused.

  6. (f)  Institutepriorityaccessforresidents(resident-onlycampingareas,allocationofa percentage of campsites for residents, and/or resident priority in the camping permit reservation system) at crowded County parks.

  7. (g)  Institute resident-only parking areas, supported by strictly-enforced tow-away regulations, at crowded parks and facilities and in neighborhoods affected by non- resident parking.

  8. (h)  Restrict vehicle access on Route 560 west of Princeville to Kauai residents’ vehicles and public transit/shuttles. (Consideration can be given to the possible issuance of a limited number of non-resident-vehicle day passes, not to exceed the disaster evacuation and parking capacities of the Hanalei-Wainiha-Ha’ena area.)

  9. (i)  Determine the disaster evacuation capacity, legal parking capacity and wastewater disposal capacity of the Hanalei, Wainiha and Ha’ena communities, and the numbers of vehicles, tourists and residents in these communities on both peak and average days. The scope and details of this work should be defined with substantial community input, to ensure that the work truly evaluates the capacity and limitations of the area’s infrastructure as it currently exists.

5. The Draft’s proposal to “support the expansion of the Princeville Airport to reduce visitor vehicle miles.” (page 2-51) and the related changes to Land Use Map (pages 4-12, 5-3, 5-8) should be deleted. The proposal would be growth-inducing (making it easier for more tourists to come to Kauai) and would also create additional aircraft noise over Hanalei. The County should be discouraging, rather than encouraging and facilitating, increases in tourism. The Draft’s proposed Permitting Action regarding the Princeville Airport site should be changed to “Close the Princeville Airport to all aircraft uses other than emergency or disaster recovery uses, and re- purpose the site for use as a tourism transit center and park-and-ride hub for the north shore.”

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II. Viewplane Protection

The Draft proposes regulatory tools to “preserve views” and “minimize impacts to view corridors from roads or public places to the ocean, and from the mauka to makai” (pages 2-13, 2-83). This wording needs to be amended, as it explicitly limits the viewplane protection concept, eliminating from consideration other important viewplanes that ought to be protected - for example, the very important views of the Hanalei River ridge from Hanalei’s beaches and Hanalei pier. Please amend the wording to “Minimize impacts to view corridors from roads or public places to the ocean, from public places and the ocean to important landmarks, from makai to mauka, and from the mauka to makai.

The explanatory text on page 2-83 also neglects to mention the Hanalei River ridge viewplane, which is puzzling given the well-known community and island-wide concern over protecting this iconic viewplane. Please amend the text to include the Hanalei River Ridge: “Other less known landmarks are no less important to defining our sense of place, particularly for the communities near them. For example, Crater Hill is an important coastal landform near Kīlauea Town, the Hanalei River ridge defines the iconic views of Hanalei from the areas beaches, parks, waters and pier, while Hā’upu Ridge frames the Līhu‘e District and divides it from the South Kaua‘i District. Landforms such as Kālepa Ridge and Kilohana Crater have similar framing qualities and help define and characterize nearby communities as distinct settlement areas”).

The Hanalei River ridge should also be added to the Heritage Resource Map (Figure 5-8).

III. Transportation: Traffic Calming

The Draft proposes to collaborate with DOT on certain matters (roundabouts, for example) related to state highways and county roads (page 2-34). A similar policy should be included in the General Plan for the far more important issue of traffic calming on state highways and county roads in residential areas. Traffic calming is of particular importance to the Hanalei- Wainiha-Ha’ena communities on Route 560/Kuhio Highway, as well as on Weke Road.

Please add an additional Partnership Action (after Partnership Action 3.b on page 2-34) stating the following: “Develop policies and implement actions for traffic calming on County roads, and strongly urge HDOT to implement actions to calm traffic on State Highways in residential communities.

IV. Issues Specific to Hanalei, Wainiha and Ha’ena

A. Proposed Vision, Goals, Actions and “Place Based Designations”

Regarding the proposed vision, goals, actions and “place based designations” for Hanalei (pages 4-61, 4-62, 4-66 and 5-8): as Hanalei does not have a recently-updated community plan, the adoption of any of these visions, goals, actions or designations in the General Plan would be premature, as such an adoption would be a top-down imposition of these visions, goals and actions on our community.

Indeed, some of the proposals could be cause for some concern. For example, the proposed requirement that off-street parking lots be located behind buildings could unduly constrain Hanalei’s town character; the proposed creation of a park-and-ride location in Hanalei town would encourage more tourist rental cars to come into the valley to park in Hanalei rather than at a Princeville transportation hub; and the proposed

 

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“neighborhood center/neighborhood general/neighborhood edge” designations could have many ramifications regarding the types of development allowed in those areas.

To avoid any future misunderstandings about the nature of the proposals, we request that the General Plan explicitly state that no land use designations related to neighborhood center/neighborhood general/neighborhood edge, and none of the proposed visions, goals and actions, should be considered to be anything more than unvetted preliminary proposals unless and until they have been endorsed by the community.

B. Agricultural zone, Open zone and Public land policies for Hanalei-Wainiha-Ha’ena

We support the proposed policy to “preserve and protect Agricultural lands” (page 4-13). However, we believe it is very important that the General Plan also state that no tourism development (agricultural tourism, B&Bs, tourist attractions, etc.) will be allowed in the Hanalei-Wainiha-Ha’ena Agricultural and “Natural” zones; and that Hanalei-Wainiha- Ha’ena taro fields shall be protected from all development, including gentleman’s estates, by the removal/transfer of all housing density from these lands.

We request that the General Plan actions for Hanalei also include actions committing the County to work with the DLNR to: (i) not allow any expansions of commercial activities on state-jurisdictional public lands; (ii) implement the County Council’s 2014 resolution (Resolution 2014-49) to protect Hanalei Bay from threats posed by mega-yachts/offshore TVRs; and (iii) vigorously enforce DLNR’s regulations for Hanalei-Wainiha-Ha’ena beaches and waters.

C. Disaster Preparedness/Emergency Evacuation

Notably missing from the Draft’s proposed goals and actions (page 4-66) are goals and actions to ensure that new development does not further degrade the safety of our communities in the event that rapid evacuation is required. The General Plan’s policies and actions should not encourage new development in the tsunami evacuation areas, which encompass most of Hanalei and Ha’ena and much of Wainiha.

  • Permitting Action 1.c (on page 2-24) states: “Allow additional rental units in all residential communities.” This Action should be conditioned (just as Action 1.a on that page is conditioned) as “Allow additional rental units in all residential communities, with the exception of areas affected by existing and future hazards.”

  • Permitting Action 1.c (on page 2-31) states: “Decrease the number of nonconforming Transient Vacation Rentals in existing neighborhoods through attrition.” This policy is inadequate and almost meaningless (as attrition is rare) to deal with the enormous load that TVRs (which generally have far more occupants per house than residences have) impose on our communities’ disaster evacuation capability. The Action should be reworded as “Decrease the number of nonconforming Transient Vacation Rentals in existing neighborhoods by seeking to phase-out non-conforming TVRs (seeking amendments to HRS 46-4, if necessary).

    The General Plan’s policies and actions should also work towards reducing the existing threats to our communities’ disaster resilience by reducing the ADVC west of Princeville to a level that can be supported by the area’s existing infrastructure. Limiting the number of non-resident vehicles that enter Hanalei Valley (see Item I.4.h above) is an important first step for increasing our communities’ disaster evacuation capability.

 

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D. Bike Paths in Hanalei-Wainiha-Ha’ena

The “North Shore Shared Use Path” cited in the Draft was a plan produced by a special interest group (Kauai Path) without community consensus or approval; and as such, it should not be afforded legitimacy as public policy. While it is very likely that there is widespread community support for one-or-more shared use paths in the Hanalei- Wainiha-Ha’ena communities, the purposes, locations, designs and other parameters of such paths should be the product of our communities’ vision, needs and desires, not those of an outside agency or special interest group. It would therefore be very wrong for the General Plan to declare that County policy is to “construct the North Shore Shared Use Path,” or to indicate that path on the Transportation maps in Chapter 5.

Therefore, we request that the Draft be amended as follows:

  • Amend the statement that DOT provide bicycle facilities “on all State Highways, including bridges.” (page 2-41) This statement paints with too broad a brush, and in addition to not reflecting any community consensus, it would have very negative implications as the “all” in the statement can/will be used as an attack on our cherished one-lane bridges (which are important both as historical and traffic calming facilities). The Draft’s statement should be conditioned by removing the word “all” and appending the phrase “where desired in community plans.”

  • The Draft’s proposal to “Construct the North Shore Shared Use Path” (page 2-60) is based solely on the 2012 North Shore Path Alternatives document that was produced by a bicycle path advocacy group. The Draft’s proposal should be amended to read “Evaluate the possible creation of one-or-more north shore shared use paths, consistent with the visions and desires of the affected local communities and local Community Plans.

  • The “North Shore Path” should be deleted from the Policy Maps on pages 5-41, 5-42 and 5-43, as the “North Shore Path” should not be misconstrued to have any legitimacy as public policy at this time.

    Again, the concern stated above should not be mistaken as opposition towards one-or- more possible shared use path(s). Instead, it simply requests that the current vision for bicycle access in the Hanalei-Wainiha-Ha’ena communities 3 be respected by the General Plan unless and until that vision has been updated through an open, collaborative process that reflects the communities’ desires.

    V. Implementation

    The General Plan needs to include both a timetable for the implementation of the actions, resolutions and ordinances proposed in the Plan, and a requirement for semi-annual progress reports to the County Council. Without a requirement to report to the public, including progress on meeting the Plan’s milestones, implementation will fail.

    Thank you for your consideration of these comments and concerns.

    Joel Guy, President
    Hanalei-to-Ha’ena Community Association

3 The Kuhio Highway Historic Roadway Corridor Plan (page 18) states that Route 560, within and outside of Hanalei town, “shall be a shared use road for vehicles and bicycles.”

 

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HHCA response to Hanakāpīʻai Stream Bridge Project

Read below or click here for pdf copy. 

 

(November 7, 2016)

Lauren Tanaka

Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of State Parks

1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 310

Honolulu, HI 96813

lauren.a.tanaka@hawaii.gov

Alison Andrews 

Tetra Tech, Inc.

737 Bishop Street, Suite 2340

Honolulu, HI96813

ali.andrews@tetratech.com

Re: Draft Environmental Assessment, Hanakāpīʻai Stream Bridge Project

­­­__________________________________________________________________

The Hanalei-to-Ha'ena Community Association (HHCA) submits the following comments on the Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) for the proposed Hanakāpīʻai Stream Bridge Project (“Bridge”).  As the HHCA’s members live in the three communities that are located closest to the proposed Bridge, many of the members have extensive experience and insights related to the trail. 

1.  The HHCA strongly disagrees with the unfounded assertions, made throughout the DEA, that the Bridge would not be growth-inducing.  To the contrary, we believe that the proposal to construct this bridge without simultaneously addressing its very clear growth-inducing impacts, will result in more people crossing the Hanakāpīʻai Stream during unsafe conditions, and expose more people to the hazards of dangerous surf at Hanakāpīʻai Beach and dangerous conditions on the Hanakāpīʻai Falls Trail.  

There are more than a dozen places in the DEA where the assertion that the Bridge would not be growth-inducing should be corrected.

A.    DEA Assertion:  “The proposed bridge is not expected to increase the number of visitors accessing Hanakāpīʻai. In recent years, there has been an increase in number of visitors on the trail going to Hanakāpīʻai Beach and Hanakāpīʻai Falls, which can be attributed to an overall increase in visitors to Kaua’i, as well as increased recreation and physical activities such as hiking and promotion by social media and online destination sites.”  (Page 12)

Response: Unless and until daily caps on the use of the Kalalau Trail are instituted and enforced, the construction of the Bridge will encourage more tourists to use the trail as it is obvious that they will be informed (and rightfully so) by tourist guides, “social media and online destination sites” that the formerly hazardous crossing of the Hanakāpīʻai Stream has been eliminated.  Not only will this information encourage more tourists to make use of the Kalalau Trail, but it will also encourage a greater number of ill-prepared tourists to make use of the Trail, increasing hazardous behaviors and putting a greater number of both tourists and rescue personnel at risk.

B.    DEA Assertion:  “The scenic route and coastal areas of Hanakāpīʻai are the attractions for most visitors, whereas the stream and proposed bridge are part of the trail system that connects visitors to these areas. Therefore, the relatively simple bridge design is not expected to be an added attraction to Hanakāpīʻai... The proposed bridge is not anticipated to attract an increase in the number of visitors to Hanakāpīʻai, as this may be attributable to other factors such as promotion of not easily accessible scenic areas and fascination with Kaua’i’s natural resources.” (Page 12)

Response: This statement diverts attention from the real issue.  It is obviously true that the bridge itself would not be an attraction, any more than a widened highway to a difficult-to-access scenic area is an attraction.  But in both cases, the new infrastructure facilitates and encourages increased visitation to the scenic area.

C.    DEA Assertions:  “The bridge is intended to provide a means for stranded hikers to get out of Hanakāpīʻai during times of high stream levels caused by severe weather events.”  (Page 12).   “During heavy rain and flash flooding events, the bridge would provide a safe option for hikers to leave Hanakāpīʻai.” (Page 21)

Response: What these statements obscure is the fact that the bridge will also provide a means for additional hikers, who would otherwise be deterred from crossing Hanakāpīʻai Stream by greater-than-minimal stream levels, to cross the Stream to Hanakāpīʻai Beach and the Hanakāpīʻai Falls Trail, increasing the number of people who will then be exposed to hazards at the beach and on the trail.

D.    DEA Assertion: “Additionally, the two mile hike from the Kalalau trailhead to Hanakāpīʻai is rigorous, and unprepared and inexperienced hikers are likely to be deterred and limited by the difficulty of the trail as opposed to being attracted by a bridge.” (Page 12)

Response: First: if it were true that “unprepared and inexperienced hikers are likely to be deterred and limited by the difficulty of the trail”, there would be no rescue problem in the first place and therefore no need for the Bridge.  So the DEA’s assertion does not hold water.  Second: contrary to the DEA’s assertion, by eliminating the Hanakāpīʻai Stream crossing as a barrier to unprepared and inexperienced hikers, the bridge would enable and encourage more of those hikers to (i) take the trail during rainy conditions; and (ii) continue to Hanakāpīʻai Beach and to the Hanakāpīʻai Falls Trail, exposing more people to hazards.

E.    DEA Assertion: “If and when (emphasis added) elements of the Ha‘ena Master Plan are successfully implemented, visitation to Hanakapi’ai will actually decrease.

Response: The key part of this statement is “if and when.”  But State Parks’ top management has repeatedly warned the participants in the Ha’ena Master Plan process that, even if the BLNR does approve the proposed Ha’ena Master Plan and its daily visitation limits, it is very unlikely that those limits will actually be implemented until some time in the distant future, based on lack of funding for both infrastructure (the cost to implement a daily permitting system) and manpower (the cost to operate and enforce such a system). 

In addition: while a daily visitor limit would reduce trail use on peak days, it would not bind during the non-peak days, including bad weather days during the rainier season, when visitation is below the proposed 900 person per day limit.  On those days - precisely the days when the hazards are greatest - the proposed Hanakāpīʻai Stream bridge would facilitate increased usage of the Kalalau Trail, Hanakāpīʻai Beach and Hanakāpīʻai Falls Trail, increasing hazardous outcomes.

F.    DEA Assertion: “It is unlikely that the bridge would cause an increase in foot traffic because under normal conditions, the Hanakāpīʻai Stream crossing is approximately 1-foot deep with relatively slow moving water, which is manageable for most hikers who have the fitness and balance to traverse the first 2 miles of the Kalalau Trail to reach Hanakāpīʻai. The crossing becomes dangerous only under heavy rain conditions and the bridge is intended to provide a safe option to leave this section of the trail.” (Page 21)

Response: To the contrary: the bridge will enable, encourage and attract more people to use the Kalalau Trail (people who currently would not embark on a hike because the weather made it questionable as to whether they might be able to cross Hanakāpīʻai Stream) to visit Hanakāpīʻai Beach or Hanakāpīʻai Falls, exposing them to more risks at those locations.

G.    DEA Assertion: “Hikers continuing inland to Hanakāpīʻai Falls or further along the coastal Kalalau Trail, will encounter additional stream crossings without bridges.” (Page 21)

Response:  Indeed, this is the problem that the DEA does not honestly confront: hikers who would be able to take the trail to Hanakāpīʻai Falls (or simply visit Hanakāpīʻai Beach) during dangerous conditions, solely because the proposed bridge made it possible to cross a swollen Hanakāpīʻai Stream rather than turn back (or not embark on the hike in the first place).

H.    DEA Assertion: “The number of hikers in these areas [beyond Hanakāpīʻai Stream] are not expected to increase due to the proposed bridge.” (Page 21)

Response: This statement defies credibility.  By eliminating the primary barrier to Hanakāpīʻai Falls and Hanakāpīʻai Beach, the Hanakāpīʻai Stream bridge will certainly increase the number of hikers in those areas.

I.    DEA Assertion: “With increased visitors to the Hāʻena State Park and the Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park and their impacts upon park resources, DLNR recognizes the need to manage this situation. A proposed Management Plan for Nāpali Coast SWP will provide the guidance on management options supported by the community. In concert with implementation of the Hāʻena State Park Master Plan, this will regulate visitation, because increased traffic on the trail could result in degradation of the natural environment and cultural resources as well as a diminished sense of isolation and immersion in nature that many hikers seek in the state park.” (Page 22)

Response: As we noted earlier, State Parks’ leadership has already warned community members who have been participating in the Ha’ena State Park Master Plan process that it will be many years (if ever) before the visitor limits in that Plan can be implemented.  The odds of timely implementation of such limits in a “proposed Management Plan for Nāpali Coast SWP,” which does not even exist yet, are even smaller.

So the proposed Hanakāpīʻai Stream bridge would be built long before such limits are implemented, resulting in increased exposure of a larger number of visitors (even less-prepared than today, as they would not be stopped by the Hanakāpīʻai Stream) to the hazards of Hanakāpīʻai Beach and the Hanakāpīʻai Falls Trail.  

J.    DEA Assertion:  “The Division of State Parks, however, does not believe that keeping the dangerous conditions at Hanakāpīʻai Stream is the best way to manage park usage. Abstaining from constructing a bridge at Hanakāpīʻai Stream would not be the most effective way of managing visitation because visitors have already invested effort in hiking the two miles to reach Hanakāpīʻai Valley. They are presently undeterred by the inconvenience of fording the stream. The ideal place, however, to regulate visitation is at the trailhead at Hā‘ena State Park, which is being proposed by the Division of State Parks (Personal Communication, Division of State Parks, 2015).” (Page 22)

Response:  In this statement, the DEA admits that some visitors today are undeterred by the inconvenience of fording the stream. Providing a bridge over Hanakāpīʻai Stream can only increase that number, exposing more people to the hazards at Hanakāpīʻai Beach and the Hanakāpīʻai Falls Trail.  

We agree that the ideal place to regulate visitation is at the trail head.  State Parks would do far better to spend its funds to implement a trailhead management system rather than spend its funds on a bridge that, without a trailhead management system, will result in increased trail usage and increased visitor exposure to hazards.

K.    DEA Assertion: “In the case that the proposed bridge causes an increase in the number of visitors, the issue of managing park visitation is already being addressed by the Division of State Parks through the Hā‘ena State Park proposed MP and associated Draft Environmental Impact Statement submitted in July 2015. In the MP, Division of State Parks cites an increasing number of visitors over the past 30 years which could have detrimental effects on the natural and cultural resources in the area (see Table 3-1). In response, Hā‘ena State Park proposes for the first time to impose limits on the number of visitors allowed to enter the park to 900 people per day. Because hikers have to pass through Hā‘ena State Park to reach the Kalalau Trailhead, access to the trail and Hanakāpīʻai would be limited to 900 daily visitors as well. (DLNR Division of State Parks 2015).” (Page 22)

Response: Pointing to the proposed Ha’ena State Park visitation limit as a remedy for the bridge’s growth inducing (and risk increasing) impact is disingenuous.  As we noted earlier, State Parks’ top management has repeatedly stated that the likelihood of implementing any daily visitor limit in the next few years is minimal, due to lack of funding for both the infrastructure and the employees to implement and enforce the limit.

L.    DEA Assertion: “Because the timeframe of getting the [HāʻenaState Park] MP approved and then implemented is longer than that of this bridge approval and construction, there would likely be a period during which the bridge exists but the limitations do not. Given the urgency of the health and human safety threat, the bridge is needed to improve the safety of hikers in the park and decrease the cost of rescuing stranded individuals.” (Page 22)

Response: To the contrary, constructing the bridge without first implementing the daily visitor limits would be irresponsible, as it would decrease rather than increase the overall safety of park users.  Supposed “urgency” should not be used as an excuse to move forward with a poorly-conceived project.

2.  Even if there the Bridge had no growth-inducing impacts, it would increase, not decrease, visitors’ exposures to risks.  Even if the Bridge did not result in any increase in Kalalau Trail usage (a premise that is neither realistic nor believable, as noted above), the Bridge would result in an larger number of poorly-prepared visitors (those who would normally turn back at Hanakāpīʻai Stream when its water level was beyond minimal) being exposed to the risks at Hanakāpīʻai Beach and along the Hanakāpīʻai Falls Trail (the latter being a day hike that far more day hikers would take if the Hanakāpīʻai Stream crossing was made trivial by the Bridge).

As the DEA notes (on Page 14) “the vast majority of hikers access the beach as their final destination.” But the DEA also states (on Page 8): “Hanakāpīʻai Beach is one of the most dangerous beaches on the island, with at least 30 drownings occurring since 1970 (Blay 2011). Strong rip currents swiftly pull swimmers away from the beach and down the coast to the west, where there is no safe beach access for over 3 miles.”  

The Bridge would make Hanakāpīʻai Beach more accessible to those day-hikers who currently turn back at the Hanakāpīʻai Stream by eliminating the current barrier associated with crossing the Hanakāpīʻai Stream.  And further, it would expose them to the beach hazards on the days when the weather conditions are worst (the days when they would currently turn back).  It makes no sense to construct a Bridge that would create such increased hazards.  Yet this serious negative impact of the proposed project is completely ignored in the DEA.

3.  The Alternatives considered in the DEA are insufficient.  

In addition to the proposed project itself being deficient (as neither its growth-inducing impacts nor its exposure of visitors to hazards on the Kalalau side of the Hanakāpīʻai Stream are considered or mitigated), the Alternatives to the Bridge are woefully incomplete.  Other than the “No Action” Alternative, the DEA considers only minor variations on the proposed Bridge, rather than considering other alternatives for achieving the ostensible goal (i.e., reducing the need to conduct rescue operations) of the Bridge project. 

The DEA Alternatives should be expanded to at a minimum include a hiker behavior modification/trailhead management alternative, as it is clear that the irresponsible behavior of hikers is the root of the problem and just as clear that changing such behavior can be the focus of the solution.  

As the DEA notes on Page 11, “[p]reviously, responders would immediately attend to stranded persons who were injured or in imminent danger, then wait for the flooding to recede to help the hikers out of the valley. Recently, however, an increasing number of hikers do not wait for the water to subside and have attempted to cross the flooded stream.” Imposing very significant penalties on trail users who do not comply with orders to not cross the Hanakāpīʻai Stream would both deter much of such behavior and support the costs of a notification and enforcement program. 

The DEA Alternatives should therefore include, for the interim period until the permanent systems for management of daily visitor access to HāʻenaState Park and Nāpali Coast SWP are put into place: real-time management of trail access at the Ke’e trailhead and at the Hanakāpīʻai Stream crossing by assigning park rangers at those locations; authorizing those rangers to order trail closures (including closure Hanakāpīʻai Stream crossing); increased signage (including real-time updates) emphasizing the risks at Hanakāpīʻai Stream and Hanakāpīʻai Beach; and implementation of severe financial penalties for trail users who violate closure orders atthe trailhead or the stream. Successful implementation of these measures would make the proposed bridge completely unnecessary.

4.    Construction Impacts on the neighboring communities:  Should it ultimately be determined that the Bridge be built (as part of a more-complete proposal that addresses the problems that we have noted above), we note that the DEA states that the construction zone would in part be accessed by helicopter.  We have had much experience in the past with non-tour helicopters flying noisily over our communities, and we therefore note that as a construction impact mitigation measure, all helicopter activity associated with the project must be required to be routed far from the Hanalei, Wainiha and Ha’ena residential communities.

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In conclusion: the proposed Hanakāpīʻai Bridge project is ill-conceived and incomplete.  Although the Bridge is being marketed as a project to purportedly increase safety, it would not do so. On a very superficial level, the Bridge might seem to be warranted by safety concerns.  But the Bridge would actually result in increased visitor exposure to harms, as it is only half-a-project, lacking concurrent implementation of the measures needed to: (i) prevent its growth-inducing effects, and (ii) prevent visitors who would currently turn back at Hanakāpīʻai Stream from proceeding over the proposed bridge and exposing themselves to significant harms at Hanakāpīʻai Beach and the Hanakāpīʻai Falls Trail.  Because so many key elements are missing from the Bridge project,  it would provide no more of an increase in safety than would a new bridge on an urban highway built without lane-striping, traffic control/speed limit/warning signs or guardrails.

Until the Bridge’s inducements of increased visitation and increased hazardous behavior are fully addressed (through concurrent implementation of daily limits on the use of the Kalalau Trail, through real-time closure - and enforcement of such closure - of the Trail and/or the Hanakāpīʻai Stream crossing to day hikers when stream level rises are imminent, and through implementation of severe financial penalties for those who violate closure orders), both the project and the DEA are incomplete and the proposed FONSI is unjustified. 

For the reasons stated above, we strongly disagree with the Anticipated Finding of No Significant Impact.

Finally: we note that the HHCA was neither formally consulted on the Draft EA, nor was it included on the DEA Distribution List (Page 26).  For more than 25 years, the HHCA has represented the Hanalei, Wainiha and Ha’ena communities and has consistently provided constructive input on matters impacting those communities.  We hereby request that the HHCA be added to the Distribution List, and that the HHCA be provided with two hard-copies of all future documents related to this matter, including the SMA Major Use Permit Application and Conservation District Use Permit Application, should the project move forward.

Joel Guy, President        Caren Diamond, Chair

Hanalei-to-Ha’ena Community Association        Hanalei-to-Ha’ena CommunityAssociation Land Use Committee