Fact Finding Site Visits
In our 2022 Legislative Report that was mailed to every home in the district, we recapped some of the accomplishments from this year's Legislature and important district issues like the Kawaihapai Airfield, Koolauloa Community Center and Resiliency Hub, and commercial activity excesses at Kaneohe Bay and Shark's Cove. If you missed it or want to read again, an online copy is available at SenatorRiviere.com.
A group of Legislators recently visited the Red Hill Fuel Storage Facility to see how the cleanup and repairs are proceeding. This was my third visit to the colossal underground tanks that once held 250 million gallons of fuel. We learned that most of the contaminants near the water well have been removed, but they are not yet finished, and the Navy continue to install additional monitoring sensors. When asked about the timeline to remove the remaining 100 million gallons, we were given vague answers about the unreliability of the pipes. One has to wonder how they reconcile this concern about pipe reliability to drain the tanks with previous assurances that everything was safe while in operation.
One of the big issues at the Legislature this year was the creation of a new management authority for Maunakea. To further my knowledge on this hot topic, I joined a handful of Senate colleagues on a two-day, fact-finding visit to the mountain. After meeting with both protectors and astronomists, I am hopeful there may be a path forward for better management of the mountain, respect for the host culture, opportunities for local residents, and a place for astronomy in Hawaii.
We continue to work on resolving the underlying concerns at Kawaihapai Airfield so that it can continue to operate for years to come. The Army and Department of Transportation Airports Division (DOTA) appear close on an updated Joint Use Agreement and they have agreed that maintenance of the water system will not be a condition of any new long-term lease. There is still a lot of uncertainty about what to do with the water system.
The water system is uniquely complicated. The well is located on Army land and the permit to pump up to 55,000 gallons a day is held by DOTA. The water is used, or has been used, by airfield tenants, the State of Hawaii, the Kaena Point Satellite Tracking Station, Mokuleia Beach Park, YMCA Camp Erdman, and several private residences. Airport funds cannot be used to support a water system for users off the airfield, so DOTA is in a difficult position managing the legacy water system based on decades old agreements. We must find a new operations and management structure.
The immediate concern is that the system has been losing millions of gallons of water every month for many years. We cannot change the fact that the massive leak should have been repaired a long time ago, but we are hopeful that DOTA is finally moving forward with new state budget funding of $200,000 for planning and design. Once the system is brought up to a reliable condition, then we can begin to take steps to stand up a new water users cooperative or other management structure. We have been working with Hawaii Rural Water Association and other experts in water management in preparation for this transfer. It is not easy, but we will get this done.