WAILUKU, Hawaii — Maui lawmakers are urging Gov. David Ige to halt the construction of a seawall along a highway on the western part of the island as protests have erupted over the $3 million project.
State Rep. Angus McKelvey and Maui County Councilmember Don Couch sent separate letters to the governor Friday. They both have asked Ige to delay the Honoapiilani Highway project to allow time for government agencies and community members to review potential impacts of the construction.
Their requests come as protesters have occupied the construction site to raise awareness about their environmental concerns with the seawall, which they say will cause harm to endangered Hawaiian monk seals.
McKelvey said the project’s contractor has been unwilling to move forward with the project because of liability issues relating to the protesters.
Couch called for a 60-day moratorium on the project and suggested the Department of Transportation make use of an unused cane haul road in the meantime. Diverting traffic to the cane haul road would allow southbound traffic to shift over to the current northbound lane, leaving the southbound lane as a natural buffer zone between the ocean and the highway, he said.
“So that will give the county and the state more time to come up with a permanent solution which is to realign Honoapiilani Highway,” Couch said.
The DOT said the project, which includes guardrail installation and the widening of the road, is aimed at protecting the highway from erosion. Agency officials said the project has already gone through the environmental process, which included a public comment period.
But McKelvey said the DOT needs more time to educate people about the project.
Couch called for further discussion “while there is still time to do the right thing.”
“Let’s break the bureaucratic mold and use common sense to come up with innovative and mutually beneficial solutions,” Couch said.
The governor’s office said Ige was unable to comment at this time.