The area’s cultural significance first came to light in a dramatic way in 1967 when the discovery of human remains led to a remarkable insight.
While some people initially supported the project, the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board has now voted overwhelmingly to oppose it. The Kailua Neighborhood Board passed a similar resolution.
Waimanalo residents took their protest to Honolulu on May 30, showing up with signs to protest Caldwell as he delivered his annual State of the City address.
The dispute has turned into a battle of wills between the city and many Waimanalo residents.
At the Waimanalo Neighborhood Board meeting June 10, Jim Howe, director of the city’s department of emergency services, told a large and raucous crowd that the mayor had decided to halt the project until Sept. 1, which made many people feel optimistic the work would stop for good.
Two days later, however, more construction equipment arrived at the site and workers began digging trenches for water lines to irrigate a future ballpark.
Howe took responsibility for the error in saying work would be stopped. Nathan Serota, a spokesman for the city Department of Parks and Recreation, said in an email that Howe will submit a letter of apology to the Waimanalo board about his mistake.
Waimanalo residents called it another sign of dysfunction and misinformation from the mayor’s office.
“How can the mayor’s representative say one thing and a couple days later, they are going right on with the project,” said Kalima. “It doesn’t surprise us they act contrary to what they express.”
Concerns About Archaeological Monitoring
From the beginning, many residents raised concerns about whether the city and state were adequately monitoring the site to protect any historical or archaeological remains.
Responsibility for monitoring archaeological sites in Hawaii rests with the State Historic Preservation Division and its chief archaeologist, Susan Lebo. It’s part of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Under the Special Management Area Use Permit for the project, the city’s Department of Design and Construction was supposed to work with the state Historic Preservation Division to determine whether an archaeological monitoring plan was necessary.
At some point, an archaeological consulting firm, Pacific Legacy, was retained to handle the job.
But residents who have been watching the work said they saw no sign of an archaeologist or any monitoring underway when crews began the grubbing and clearing of trees and vegetation.
A monitor eventually did come to the scene, but “every time people went there, she was sitting in her car by the roadway,” said Kama-Toth.
Area residents took video footage that appears to show long periods of earth-moving activity with no monitor in sight. In the footage, an excavator and a backhoe were shown scooping up mounds of sand and dirt and depositing them into a dump truck that drove away.
Waimanalo resident Laurie Kahiapo said she called the Historic Preservation Division to complain. She said she was told the division had investigated and had twice shut down the work because of inadequate monitoring.
Paul Cleghorn, principal and senior archaeologist at Pacific Legacy, said in an email that he had been told all media inquiries should be directed to Clifford Lau of the city’s Design and Construction Department.
Project opponents said they called Lebo repeatedly to report that the archaeological monitoring at the site appeared lax. They said she expressed exasperation at city officials.
Lebo did not respond to repeated requests for comment. On Thursday, DLNR spokesman Dan Dennison said Lebo was not authorized to speak with reporters, and that his department would speak on her behalf. On Friday, he emailed that there would be “no further comment at this time.”
City officials have acknowledged that state officials at some point decided that more rigorous oversight was needed, and at a meeting at Honolulu Hale on May 28, Lau of the Department of Design and Construction said the state had ordered the city to employ a second monitor. But by then the site was substantially cleared.
In an email, Serota of the city parks department said the city’s efforts exceeded what is required by law.
“The project requires that any activities which disturb the existing ground be monitored by the archaeological monitor,” he said. “We have been working with the State Historic Preservation Division and will now be stationing an archaeologist with each piece of heavy equipment operating during the site clearing, even if it is not disturbing the ground.”
Kirch, the archeologist, said the monitor should have been stationed close to the equipment from the start, watching carefully to be able to stop work quickly if archaeologically significant material was unearthed.
“If a lot of sand and dirt is being scooped up, it ought to be looked at on a sampling basis,” with somebody sifting and examining the material, he said. “You don’t let it just go into a dump truck,” he said.