by Andrew Walden
Kauai residents, including minors, have been required to leave the island for inpatient drug rehabilitation services ever since Serenity House was destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. After 14 years of waiting, Kauai Mayor Brian Baptiste broke ground on a new inpatient treatment facility at Hanapepe near the Salt Ponds in August 2006.
But now, thanks to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), construction has been halted and the location may be abandoned.
OHA’s Kauai trustee Don Cataluna told a hearing Aug. 21, “The mayor’s plan for Salt Ponds is dead. I will fight that facility if it is the last thing I do with my life.”
It is not Cataluna who is dying. It is young Kauai residents addicted to drugs and unable to get help.
According to Kauai County officials, over 1,200 Kauai residents -- including about 200 adolescents -- receive some type of drug abuse treatment every year. Kauai drug court is constantly full as are the existing outpatient treatment centers on the island. From 80 percent to 90 percent of the crime on Kauai is drug-related. About 20 Kauai teenagers per year are treated on Maui by Maui Youth and Family Services. An additional 10 to 25 adults are treated at off island facilities every year.
After only two months of construction, objections from OHA forced a November 1 halt to the project. Kauai County then wasted 10 months answering environmental excuses raised by OHA staffers. Cataluna claims he is backed by an additional four of the nine OHA trustees.
OHA claims “runoff” from the treatment facility would somehow endanger the ponds where a small group of native Hawaiians continue a 1,500-year-old tradition of harvesting salt by evaporation. The treatment facility was to be built on the site of former Humane Society building and kennels, abandoned since 2001.
The Salt Pond area also includes thousands of acres of active Gay and Robinson cane fields, public beaches, a county road, a large county transfer station, a cemetery, and Port Allen. Within feet of the ponds are a large beach parking lot and the landing strip of Burns Field.
County officials worked for months to address all of the environmental excuses OHA came up with. But after listening to Cataluna, Baptiste told the Garden Island Aug. 22, “My understanding is that we are going to mitigate environmental impacts on the salt beds, and we looked at that. If it is social or cultural, then that is a different discussion altogether.”
This should be a warning to everybody. A non-existent threat to Hawaiian culture at the Salt Ponds is more important to OHA than the medical needs of Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian people who want to get off drugs.
OHA advocates Hawaiian culture without -- even against -- Hawaiian people. Apparently it is more important for OHA to grow its power over land use decisions by saying “no” than it is to help Kauai children to say “no” to drugs.
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