Judge halts Keauhou Bay sewer line work

A 3rd Circuit Court judge issued a temporary restraining order to halt construction work at Keauhou Bay, pending a hearing on a lawsuit filed late last month.

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A 3rd Circuit Court judge issued a temporary restraining order to halt construction work at Keauhou Bay, pending a hearing on a lawsuit filed late last month.

Judge Ronald Ibarra signed the TRO May 27. A hearing is scheduled for today on the injunction Honaunau resident LeeAnn Leslie, who has family ties to Keauhou Bay and who is there several times a week for work and recreation, is requesting.

In the complaint, attorney David Kimo Frankel, of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., lays out several reasons the construction work — installing a new sewer line — should not proceed. Officials with Kamehameha Investment Corp., an offshoot of Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate in Kona, and Keauhou Community Services Inc., told West Hawaii Today last month the work was to repair damages related to the March 2011 tsunami.

Leslie said last month she spoke with KIC officials and questioned whether they should start work in the bay, which is a significant historical site and the location of numerous Hawaiian artifacts, without first conducting a number of environmental and archaeological reviews.

“The (Keauhou Community Services project) jeopardizes historical properties, the cultural context of the area, any iwi that remain buried and other coastal resources,” Frankel wrote. “Neither KCS nor KIC has received the necessary approval to proceed with the replacement of the subsurface force main within the conservation district.”

Specifically, the complaint said, the work violated Hawaii Revised Statutes regarding work in conservation and historic areas. Without those approvals, the work should be stopped, Frankel argued.

KIC officials told Leslie and others at a community meeting last month they were allowed to do the work under a 2011 emergency proclamation Gov. Neil Abercrombie made. That order allowed for making emergency, tsunami repairs. Frankel, in his complaint, said that order doesn’t cover the work.

For one, the proclamations do not suspend the conservation district rules in the Hawaii Revised Statutes, chapter 183C, “the KCS project is not a repair of damages caused by the tsunami; KCS’ project is not a government project; and the tsunami took place over three years ago and no emergency currently exists,” the complaint said.

Work began on the project May 19.

KIC President Leslie Yim said in an email Tuesday afternoon the governor’s order does cover the work.

“KIC is committed to following the best management practices requested by the County and the State and to ensure that the resources of Keauhou Bay will be protected,” she wrote. “This includes contracting cultural and archaeological monitors to be on site for the duration of the project to report any unanticipated cultural discoveries. Such discoveries are considered unlikely since the repair work will take place in the same trenches and locations where existing sewer lines and other utilities have already been placed. If discoveries are made, however, KIC is committed to following all applicable state and county laws — in addition to our own internal protocols — for the proper and respectful treatment of any items inadvertently disturbed.”

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The work is directly related to the tsunami, she said.

KIC’s attorney has filed an opposition memo to the TRO, she added.

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