Progress towards saving the airfield
We continue to make progress towards keeping Kawaihapai Airfield open. In recognition of the progress, the DOT will be moving back its lease termination date until the end of this year. This is a significant update because, until now, the department’s firm position was that all airfield tenants would need to vacate the property by June 30th. The six-month extension gives the airfield tenants a reprieve, albeit limited, while we work to resolve the relevant issues.
Two primary concerns for DOT have been the lack of a long-term lease from the US Army and the old, leaky water system that serves the airfield, the Kaena Point Satellite Tracking Station, Camp Erdman, Mokuleia Beach Park and several residences.
Rep. Lauren Matsumoto has been engaged with the Army and DOT to help move forward the lease negotiations. The Army has expressed a clear desire to continue the joint use agreement that allows general aviation during daylight hours and periodic military training during the night. In recent years, the DOT has been granted five-year leases, which make long term planning difficult.
Neither the Army nor the DOT want to operate the water system; and rightfully so, as their missions do not include water utility company. Management of the system has been a major roadblock for lease negotiations until now, as the Army will no longer make it a lease requirement. A long-term lease looks very promising.
I have been focusing on the water problem. First of all, the water cannot be turned off; we have to find a way to continue water delivery. Second, the water system has been leaking for many years and is in dire need of major repairs or replacement. The well is located on the military reservation, but operated by DOT through a contractor. The regulatory, ownership, management and jurisdictional issues are going to be a challenge.
My legislative aid, Mark Clemente, and I have had a series of meetings and conversations with water system management companies, the Public Utilities Commission, Department of Health, Commission on Water Resource Management, Hawaii Rural Water Association, and the impacted residents, to explore alternatives. We will be reporting back our progress to a stakeholders group, including the Army and DOT.
The cost of refurbishing the water system could as much as $12 million or more. It is not yet clear who will be paying for the repairs, but it is clear the Army and DOT cannot walk away from this responsibility. We will continue to put in the necessary work to move this complicated issue forward.
On another pressing issue, the Waialua Beach Road bridge repairs are estimated to take up to nine months to complete. Preliminary design work has been completed and the City has this project on an expedited schedule. Bridges routinely take many years to design and build, so let us hope they can move the project as estimated.
If you have flexibility in your schedule, you may want to take a peek at GoAkamai.org for a current image of Thompson Corner before you leave home. That, and Google Maps, can inform drivers about traffic flow.