April 2021/ Civil Beat, Nick Grube: Before U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele returned to Washington last week, he joined professional surfer Laird Hamilton for a boat tour of the Hanalei River on Kauai.
Hamilton pointed out the invasive hau bush along the riverbanks and talked to the congressman about the heavy rains that erode the hillsides and submerge the roadways, occasionally cutting off the tiny North Shore community from the rest of the island.
Kahele also witnessed the disappearing shorelines caused by coastal erosion and rising sea levels triggered by climate change.
A freshman lawmaker who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Kahele wanted to see firsthand how Hawaii’s bridges, roads and highways were holding up so that he could report back to his colleagues how much money the state might need should Congress pass President Joe Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.
What Kahele saw, however, was not pretty.
In an interview with Civil Beat, Kahele described walking through a decades-old wastewater treatment plant that he thinks might be the “worst in the country” and visiting waterfronts where treated sewage is dumped onto the shoreline “right onto the rocks.”
“It’s not sexy,” Kahele said. “But if you saw what I saw you would know this is something we need to address.”
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