HONOLULU — The state Department of Transportation is studying different plans to comprehensively rebuild Kahului Airport’s aging main runway, which was built in 1942.
The runway was constructed during World War II to support military aircraft, long before the era of jumbo jets.
“Over the years, as the aircrafts have become larger, and as Maui has grown and there’s more airlift in and out of Maui, that the wear and tear has kind of taken its toll,” said State Senate President Shan Tsutsui, who represents Kahului and Wailuku in the State Senate.
The state spent $3.4 million repaving the main runway on Maui in 2006 and another $1.3 million since in maintenance and repairs.
“The amount of money that we’ve needed to maintain that runway has slowly been increasing. And so we recognize the situation,” said Dan Meisenzahl, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
The Federal Aviation Administration has told the state that the Band-Aid approach won’t work anymore. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the FAA notified the state, saying, “We consider this type of repair to be maintenance and it is not eligible for federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding.”
But, Gregor said, the feds could pay up to 75 percent of the cost of a comprehensive rebuilding of the runway.
The state is looking at a number of options, the least popular of which would be to close down the main runway for a month or so, to repave it, Meisenzahl said.
“We wouldn’t want to shut down the airport for any period of time, because it would have a significant impact on the economy — not just the visitor industry, but for businesses, residents as well,” Tsutsui said.
KAHULUI – Environmentalists and farmers lashed out Thursday night at the announced layoffs of state agricultural inspectors, arguing that the move planned by the Lingle administration would uproot efforts to preserve the island’s agricultural industry and pristine environment.
Close to 100 people turned out at a Senate Ad Hoc Committee meeting held in the Maui Waena Intermediate School cafeteria. The crowd applauded those who spoke against the layoffs, some even attacking Gov. Linda Lingle.
Should the layoffs go forward in November as planned by Gov. Linda Lingle, not all Maui-based inspectors will disappear, according to Carol Okada, manager of the Plant Quarantine Bureau in the state Department of Agriculture.
There are inspectors in 10 positions covered by special funds who will not be affected, including six funded by the state Department of Transportation. But the six positions paid out of the state’s general fund are on the budget-cutting hit list.
Anna Mae Shishido, Maui County supervisor of the Maui Plant Quarantine Branch, wrote a letter expressing her concern about the impact of the layoffs to two Maui lawmakers – state Sen. J. Kalani English and Rep. Joe Souki.
She said the Transportation Department’s special fund specifies that the six inspectors it pays for would work at the Kahului Airport – which means they wouldn’t do maritime inspections.
As a result, Matson and other containers carrying produce, animal feed and other agricultural material would need to go to Honolulu first for inspection, Shishido said. Diverting that cargo to Oahu would mean extra handling of Maui-bound containers, adding delays and costs for consumers.
The layoffs would also mean that more than two dozen certified nurseries on Maui would no longer be able to self-certify their plant shipments to other states because state inspectors would not be available to conduct semi-annual nursery re-certification inspections, she said.
Shishido said she was alarmed about the potential for infestations of alien species without maritime inspections on Maui.
"We anticipate increased infestations of stinging nettle caterpillars and coqui frogs on Maui and new infestations of little fire ants and the varroa mite, which have not been found here so far," she said. "The safeguards we have worked so hard to put in place will be drastically decreased or completely gone. Maui will be exposed."