Thursday, September 22, 2011


TRY WAIT: The kvetch-fest over Governor Neil Abercrombie's "emergency" declarations- and the fact that he failed to tell anyone about one of them for months- suspending environmental and planning laws to clear ordinance from the beaches and oceans and nene from the Kaua`i Airport area would be deafening if it weren't for the paywall blocking the state's "newspaper of record," making it an unproductive endeavor to link to columnist Dave Shapiro’s traditional harangue or, surprisingly, Cynthia Oi's tome on the subject.

But while some debate whether these are in fact emergencies under state law, another "emergency" proclamation by his Governorship has got to be the slowest developing crisis in history showing that if you wait until the molehill becomes a mountain you can create a pressing matter of epic proportions out of anything.

The fact that a stretch of the highway near Lumahai has been falling into the ocean is no surprise to anyone who has driven the stretch in the past decade. But Abercrombie's "emergency declaration" on September 7 would make you believe that rather than it being a result of glacial-paced erosion, some menehune came in last month with pickaxes and chopped away at the coastline all in one night.

The fact is that the declaration is the result of almost a decade of trying to get the state to get its act together. We can remember current State Senator Ron Kouchi as Kaua`i County Council Chair- that would place it before 2003- grilling then County Engineer Cesar Portugal about what was thought to be the imminent loss of the northbound lane of the state highway.

What should be a state problem has since been a subject of concern for every council and county engineer ever since. While the county has been making temporary fixes, the state has dragged its feet in moving the highway 40 feet inland- the current "emergency" solution which was first proposed 10 years ago.

But that would have taken due process, pubic hearings and most importantly environmental impact statements, certified shoreline determinations and, quite probably, a plan to be approved by the Army Corps of Engineers, as we heard in council testimony over the years.

But noooo. The state's solution is to wait until it is an actual emergency and give the finger to due process, public hearings, transparency and, most importantly, any thoughtful review of the fact that if this section is falling into the ocean, what's next? That might raise the nasty problem of why we're putting things like bike paths- and even new homes under the county's new process for granting exemption from what had been widely acknowledged to be the strongest shoreline protection law in the country- 10 feet away from the shoreline in an age when climate change could well remove that 10 feet in as many years.

Is this the future of how the state's environmental and shoreline protection laws will be handled when the ocean come in to stay? Wait long enough to suspend them?


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