Hawaii County Extends Trails and Greenways Comment Deadline

The County of Hawaii has requested that the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) extend the comment period for the Waimea Trails and Greenways project by a week before its decision on whether to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The County recently issued a FONSI in accordance with Chapter 343 HRS, the state’s environmental impact statement law. A NEPA FONSI issued by the FHWA will complete the federal environmental review process, allowing the project to be eligible for federal funding.

It is the County’s intent to apply for federal Transportation Enhancement (TE) funds. These funds, first set aside in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush, are identified in the current federal transportation legislation and earmarked specifically for activities that “help expand transportation choices” and  “enhance the transportation experience.”  The 12 categories of eligible activities include the development of non-motorized paths for pedestrians and bicycles, pedestrian and bicycle safety and education, scenic beautification, and other projects which enhance intermodal transportation systems. TE money cannot be used for any other purpose. Currently, there is approximately $16 million in TE funds available for eligible projects in the state of Hawaii.

The Waimea Trails and Greenways project, known as Ke Ala Kahawai O Waimea, is a 4.8-mile long, multi-use path following the meandering Waikoloa Stream, extending from Church Row to a future county park on Kawaihae Road. The path will be paved, vary from 10 to 12 feet in width and be ADA accessible for most of its length.

The first portion of Ke Ala Kahawai O Waimea is estimated to cost $5.8 million. Should the entire trail be developed, the cost is estimated at $18 million, with those funds coming from federal Transportation Enhancements as well as public and private grants and donations.

The trail may require the removal of some non-native eucalyptus trees, which were planted in the 1930s as wind breaks for ranchers. The county will limit removal to dead and diseased trees, as well as those which may present a danger to trail users, and all attempts will be made to realign the path rather than disturb healthy native eucalyptus trees. Any non-native tree that is removed will be replaced with one that is native and appropriate to the environment. No endangered or threatened species will be impacted by this project.

While some concerns have been raised about the appearance of a concrete trail, the county has also committed to using earth-toned dyes and stains that will allow the path to blend in with the surrounding environment.

Anyone seeking more information, or who wishes to provide comment in favor or against this project should contact the people listed below by Nov. 13, 2011.

Robert Fitzgerald, County of Hawaii, Department of Parks and Recreation, 101 Pauahi St. Suite 6, Hilo, HI 96720. (808) 961-8311. Email [email protected]

Robert Sun, Hawaii Department of Transportation, Highways Division, 601 Kamokila Blvd. Room 609, Kapolei, HI 96707. (808) 692-7578. Email [email protected]

Abraham Wong, Division Administrator, Federal Highways Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Hawaii Division, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., Room 3-306, Honolulu, HI 96850-3306. (808) 541-2305. Email [email protected]

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