Monday, April 26, 2010

Wai’anae Coast disaster preparedness plan

"House and Senate negotiators today in conference committee advanced a bill that would require the state and county civil defense agencies to prepare a disaster preparedness plan for the Wai’anae Coast of Oahu and submit it to the 2011 Legislature."

I applaud Representative Karen Awana for introducing this bill. At least it exposes a critical vulnerability.

Both in my 2008 and current campaigns for mayor "2nd access to Waianae" has been one of my top-10 priorities.

Unfortunately the call for a Civil Defense plan won't do much when Farrington Highway is blocked or washes away by Kahe point.

We do not have enough airlift capacity and we no longer have a couple of SuperFerries and a dock suitable for them in order to provide some rapid relief. We don't have a basic plan that includes the stationing of dump trucks and front loaders to begin the cleanup in the community. We don't have medical care of sufficient capacity. Also water supply will be an issue if there is a prolonged power outage. But unlike other neighborhoods, water trucks may not be able to get to the Waianae coast.

A simple example to show you how unprepared we are is a plain look of Farrington Highway. It is a continuous length of untrimmed trees and utility poles that will render it unusable for weeks after a basic category 1 hurricane. At the same time, boulders and other debris can render the Kolekole Pass impassable for days or weeks. Did we learn anything from Iniki?

An independent second access is essential. To economize, it can be built as a low-standard emergency-only road designed to be resilient to flooding and debris. It should be able to evacuate 4,000 vehicles (approximately 6,000 people per hour) and provide aid and supplies for many-many more.

It is sad that the 0.05 tack-on to the excise tax on Oahu cannot be used for real solutions in transportation relief. I still wonder for how long our Legislature will maintain its delusions about rail service.

A natural disaster hitting Oahu will be calamitous for the Wai'anae coast and will expose our poor priorities for projects and expenditures as currently applied.