WAIKIKI WAR MEMORIAL COMPLEX PROJECT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT
Stakeholder’s questions and issues for consideration
The stakeholder known as “the Friends of the Natatorium” respectfully submits the following questions and issues to assure an equitable analysis of alternatives in the Waikiki War Memorial Complex Project Environmental Impact Statement as required by the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act (HRS § 343).
The EIS Must Contain a Reasonable Range of Rehabilitation Alternatives:
The EIS must explore alternatives for a rehabilitated Natatorium that meet the same water quality standards as the adjacent ocean. In other words, if the application of Hawaii Department of Health Rules on Public Swimming Pools (Hawaii Administrative Rules § 11-10) is determined to be cost prohibitive, alternative pool designs should be analyzed that would address health and safety concerns without requiring application of those Rules. For instance, the Rules define a “Swimming pool” as an entity that contains an “artificial body of water.” The previously-approved tidal flow pool restoration design does not enclose such an artificial body and would therefore not be covered by the Rules. If the Health Department Rules are held to apply, alternatives must be explored that qualify for special exemptions from those rules, such as “beach venues,” like nearby Kuhio Beach, and “marine habitat.”
All Applicable Regulatory Requirements Must be Considered:
Demolition of the Natatorium requires federal approvals that must be conducted concurrently with the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act (HEPA) process. A joint process would avoid lengthy and costly delays in the implementation of the Project. This recommendation is supported by HRS § 343-5(h), which states,
“Whenever an action is subject to both the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (Public Law 91-190) and the requirements of this chapter, the office and agencies shall cooperate with federal agencies to the fullest extent possible to reduce duplication between federal and state requirements. Such cooperation, to the fullest extent possible, shall include joint environmental impact statements with concurrent public review and processing at both levels of government.”
Because the City must seek federal permits from the Army Corps of Engineers under section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act and section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the EIS should, at a minimum, describe the process by which it will be cooperating with the Army Corps to coordinate its State EIS review with NEPA and other federal permitting requirements including Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act.
In addition, demolition of the resource is a legal impossibility. Existing City and County law explicitly forbids the demolition of the Natatorium. The Revised Ordinances of Honolulu, Sec. 2-16.1, states:
The director of parks and recreation shall: (a) operate and maintain the Waikiki war memorial and natatorium, including its structures, facilities, and grounds.
It is not clear that the fact of this law has been taken into account by the project sponsor. The City must clarify in the EIS that its preferred alternative cannot be carried out absent City Council action to nullify existing law, an action which Natatorium advocates would strongly oppose.
Finally, the City’s preferred alternative to demolish the Natatorium has not yet been thoroughly vetted in the environmental review process. All of its associated impacts were not analyzed in the Waikiki War Memorial Park and Natatorium EIS (approved in 1998) which permitted a rehabilitated Natatorium with a tidal flow pool restoration design. As a result, the EIS must contain an extensive analysis of anticipated permitting requirements. These include:
• The federal and state regulations, reviews and permits that would be implicated or required by each alternative;
• Analysis of the applicability of the 1973 Hawaii Supreme Court ruling that resulted in a permanent injunction “enjoining and restraining the defendant-appellees [the City and County of Honolulu and the State of Hawaii] …from in any way tearing down or demolishing the Natatorium.” Natatorium Preservation Committee v. Edelstein, 55 Haw. 55, 61 (1973)
The EIS Must Fully Analyze the Environmental Consequences of Natatorium Demolition:
The current stability of the shoreline is dependent on the Natatorium serving as a retaining wall for sand on the adjacent Sans Souci Beach. The environmental impacts of alteration to the shoreline must be studied, including
• Affects to water quality due to release of sediment from the pool bottom with respect to federal clean water standards and regulations;
• Adverse impacts on the reef and marine life;
• Erosion of Sans Souci beach;
• Construction of the infrastructure that would be necessary to retain a new beach.
In addition, the EIS must disclose what would be necessary, during or after construction, to address the sand and sediment that is currently on the Natatorium bottom. Under each alternative, what kind of sand will go back into the reconstructed pool or onto artificial beach? In each case, what environmental impacts would be expected?
Finally, the EIS must contain a thorough analysis of the impact that climate change and rising sea levels will have on the creation of a new beach, particularly on the potential long-term costs of beach nourishment projects that will be required to keep sand in place. Demolition would require repeated dredging, and transport of sand at a time when such efforts should be focused on retaining existing beaches on Waikiki.
Engineering for the Project Must Be Supported by Adequate Data:
The cost and feasibility of building each alternative must be scrutinized by appropriate experts.
• The previously permitted restored tidal flow along with the Ko’Olina Swimming Lagoons were designed by UH ocean engineers Karl H. Bathen, PhD and Frans Gerritsen, PhD. The previously studied and permitted tidal flow design must be included in the EIS as an alternative;
• The demolition alternative must be analyzed by ocean engineers (as opposed to coastal geologists) for adverse impacts including erosion, creation of rip currents, and sedimentation of the reef;
• The EIS should explicitly detail the academic qualifications of any engineers or other experts whose opinions or judgments are cited;
• Wilson Okamoto Corp. prepared a Structural Condition Report in July 2004 concluding that the “bleacher structure appears to be in good overall condition.” The EIS should include an alternative that would preserve this structure, even if the swimming basin is reconfigured or removed.
Cost Considerations Must Not Serve as the Basis for Rejecting Preservation Alternatives:
Previous representations from the City’s political leadership have indicated that cost is the sole basis for its preferring demolition over retention of the Natatorium. See, i.e., Grube, Nick, Abercrombie Teams With Caldwell To Tear Down Waikiki Natatorium, Honolulu Civil Beat, May 1, 2013, available at http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2013/05/01/18956-abercrombie-teams-with-caldwell-to-tear-down-waikiki-natatorium/ (reporting that at a press conference the Mayor and Governor based their decision to demolish the historic resource on cost estimates of $18.4 million for demolition and $69.4 million for restoration. They did not provide information, however as to how those cost estimates were developed).
The EIS should detail how cost estimates have been developed as well as the degree to which cost is a factor in the selection of the preferred alternative. The EIS must also be structured so as to fairly analyze the environmental consequences of each alternative without coming to a pre-ordained conclusion based on earlier cost estimates, which have never been made public.
Given that cost is a central factor, partnerships with non-profit organizations such as Friends of the Natatorium must be considered prior to it making a determination about the feasibility of financing a rehabilitation project. This applies to both bricks and mortar construction costs as well as endowing future operational costs from philanthropic, public, and private sources. For instance, the wake of the City’s demolition decisions in 2013 several major national donors have expressed interest in partnering to help endow an aquatic facility that retains key historic elements of the facility. However, such donors have no certainty that the City is willing to engage in a public private partnership with a willing non profit organization.
In addition, the following factors must be considered:
• Current cost estimates should be procured for each alternative from licensed contractors (as opposed to planners).
• In order to have an equal comparison, cost estimates for each alternative should be based on A/E design documents rather than on conceptual plans or sketches.
• What would be the funding sources and financing mechanisms for each of the alternatives?
Related Maintenance Costs Must Be Included in the EIS and Factored into Estimates:
Each alternative will have operational costs that must be considered in the EIS. It should address the following questions:
• What are the comparative costs of each alternative?
• What is the basis of these cost estimates?
• What assurances would there be under the preferred alternative that the beach sand will remain where installed rather than wash out and alter surf breaks, envelope reef habitat or cause other adverse environmental impacts.
• If the beach erodes, what is the anticipated annual beach nourishment cost?
• How will that impact beach access, tourism and area hotels and businesses?
• Where will the sand come from?
• Has there been an environmental study done for that area?
• Will the constantly replacing sand be more costly than rehabilitating and maintaining a tidal flow pool?
• The alternatives analysis should specifically assess the potential to generate revenue for an ongoing maintenance fund for each alternative.
The Feasibility and Cost of Replacement Facilities Must be Considered:
The Natatorium currently houses men’s and women’s restrooms, showers and changing areas, along with the Ocean Safety Division’s District 1 regional headquarters and Rescue One operations. All of these amenities would be lost under the demolition alternative. In addition, the demolition alternative does not include a volleyball court and more than 30 parking spaces.
• Where would all of these current functions and facilities be moved under the preferred alternative?
• Are the sites for the parking, restrooms and lifeguards secured?
• Will any of the functions or spaces be diminished in their replacement form and sites?
• Will relocating the Ocean Safety offices elsewhere result in any adverse impact to public safety?
• What, if any, are the relevant land/lease cost of procuring new sites for replacement facilities?
• The costs associated with replacing all these functions and facilitates (including land, soft costs and construction costs) must be included in the cost estimates for demolition.
The Natatorium’s enabling legislation requires that the site include a swimming venue of 100 meters in length (see Act 15 of the 1921 Territorial Legislature). The plans for the tidal flow pool would have been the only fully ADA-accessible salt water swimming venue in the state. • The preferred (demolition) alternative does not comply with the enabling legislation, because it would remove the 100-meter swimming venue.
• Will the artificial beach be ADA-accessible for both beach-going and swimming?
• What engineering studies have been done to show that the artificial beach would be safe in terms of man-made hazards and rip currents? For instance, would the sand come level to the new groins? Have related safety issues been explored, e.g., swimmers climbing onto the groins and falling off or diving off in a dangerous manner?
• Will the City incur additional liability for injuries or drownings that occur at a beach that is City-designed and constructed?
• A rehabilitated Natatorium would offer recreationalists protection from open ocean currents. It would enable many to swim in the ocean who are otherwise unable, including the disabled, children and the elderly.
• Under the demolition alternative, the loss of the seawall would change surrounding currents. According to the 2008 Shoreline Restoration Study Conceptual Design Review Report “during large wave events straight groins are known to produce rip currents along the groin edges that can transport the sand seaward.” (p.53) Will that change adversely affect beach goers? Would it become unsafe for swimmers to leave the groin boundaries? Would surfers and their breaks be adversely impacted by any alteration of the current shoreline conditions?
The War Memorial Natatorium was opened in 1927 as a “living memorial” in tribute to the more than 10,000 men and women from Hawaii who served in World War I. A rehabilitated Natatorium would best honor the veterans and victims of war by providing a public venue for recreation, recuperation and reflection. Restoring and reopening the Natatorium would also preserve the historical message sent to the future by the people of post-war Territorial Hawaii. • The process of reaching out to stakeholders should specifically include outreach to veterans groups to ask which alternative is preferred.
• The EIS should also identify ways in which each of the alternatives will specifically address the interests of veterans.
• From 2014 to 2018, the United States and nations around the world will mark the 100th anniversary of World War I. This factor should play a part in the selection of alternatives as there will be a high degree of media interest in the state of memorials developed for Americans who served in the war.