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Community-Focused Rebuilding on Kaua?i's North Shore

Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

A new community-driven initiative on Kaua’i’s North Shore aims to ensure residents have a say in rebuilding their coast after the massive flooding earlier this year. HPR Reporter Ku?uwehi Hiraishi recently visited the Garden Isle and filed this report.

Since the April floods on Kaua?i?s North Shore, the road out to H??ena and Wainiha remain off limits to local residents. Prior to the flood, the coast would see anywhere from 2,000 to 3,500 cars daily.

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi
Damaged homes along Hanalei Bay have remained in flood waters since April 2018.

“I think the people are scared that it will return to how it was and rightfully so,” says Waip? resident Joel Guy, “I also think they’re very strong and resilient people. I don’t think its like we still need to heal, we’re all beat up. I think we just care for our place and we want to see a different model for this place.”

Joel Guy is the Executive Director of the Hanalei Initiative, a non-profit organization that formed after the April floods. The group consists of North Shore residents aiming to reclaim their community, beginning with transportation. The group is launching a shuttle from Princeville to Hanalei today.

Visitors and locals enjoy the iconic Hanalei Pier. Area residents are seeing an uptick in visitors, which they say is due to the overflow of folks turning around at the Road Closed sign at the end of Hanalei. The road has been closed since April when flooding and heavy rains took out portions of the highway leading to Ha'ena and Wainiha.

“Just to lessen the impact of these overcrowded beach parks,” says Guy, “While H??ena and Wainiha are still closed off, and Black Pot is still unavailable, we have a very limited geographic space for all these people to go to.”

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi
Waipa resident Joel Guy is the Executive Director of the Hanalei Initiative and the President of the Hanalei to Ha'ena Community Association.

A round trip ticket is $2 per person and $8 for a group of 4 or more.

“And then once the road opens we’ll be in a perfect position to hopefully bring people safely out to K??? and H??ena, and these areas out there that have been so impacted by the floods,” says Guy.

The group is also focusing on improving water quality by strengthening wastewater standards and developing Hanalei?s first public playground.

“I think this rebuilding process is an extremely incredible opportunity that we couldn’t have scripted,” says Guy, “I mean the fact that we get to go from zero people to a comfortable amount is really unique. I?m not a religious man, but its a blessing.”

The state Department of Transportation is currently aiming to re-open the road to Ha?ena early next year.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at
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