Updated 

Judge allows some Keauhou Bay construction to resume


A judge on Wednesday lifted part of a temporary restraining order for construction work at Keauhou Bay, but left the order in place for a later phase of the project.

Third Circuit Court Judge Ronald Ibarra expressed his concern about an open trench on the makai end of the sewer line replacement work. A contractor working for Kamehameha Investment Corp. and its subsidiary, Keauhou Community Services, opened the trench last month and removed a portion of a 12-inch sewer line as part of a replacement project. KIC officials claim the work was necessary because the pipe was exposed by the March 2011 tsunami.

Ibarra questioned KIC’s attorney, Thomas Yeh, about that, reading first from a supplemental emergency proclamation that allowed for “disaster relief or other emergency function,” and suspended those projects from permitting requirements.

“If this is an emergency under the governor’s proclamation, why wait three years,” Ibarra asked. “From the tsunami, the pipe was uncovered, so wouldn’t the emergency repair be covering it?”

Yeh said the project encountered design and routing issues, and that engineers said they could not simply re-cover the pipeline, but must rebury it.

“Wouldn’t you have gotten the permits in three years,” Ibarra asked.

“In hindsight, yes,” Yeh said, adding that the proclamation is still in effect, and a state and county department who have some permitting issuing authority said they don’t object to the project. He said KIC wasn’t using the emergency proclamation to avoid seeking county and state permits for the work.

LeeAnn Leslie, a Honaunau resident who grew up in Keauhou and is a lineal descendent of the area, initiated the lawsuit that seeks a permanent injunction against work in the bay until additional archaeological work is completed. Ibarra a week ago granted a temporary restraining order on the entire project, based on Leslie’s request. That order expires Friday, but Wednesday’s hearing to determine whether it should be extended wasn’t finished by the end of the court day. Ibarra offered a compromise to the parties, allowing KIC to complete the work in the trench closest to the ocean, but prohibiting any work in the remainder of the trench, or in the project’s second phase, until another hearing, set for June 13.

Leslie, who works in the archaeology field, testified Wednesday that she saw artifacts — historic and prehistoric — as well as bone fragments in a soil pile at the construction site May 23. It was unknown whether the bone fragments were animal or human, Leslie said. On a return visit Tuesday, those items were still visible in the soil, which had been removed from the pipeline trench.

“I don’t feel it’s a righteous way of malama aina,” Leslie said, when asked how she felt about what she observed at the construction site. “I need to respect my elders. That’s the land.”

Ibarra’s order included requiring additional water quality monitoring prior to the June 13 hearing. KIC President Leslie Yim also testified that she had already hired an archaeological monitor for the project.