Kauai County Makes a Muck of Morgan’s Ponds

Morgan's Pond at Lydgate Park, Kauai

Lydgate State Park, Kauai (Google Earth)

It doesn’t take an engineer to know that the county’s effort to dredge and restore the Morgan’s Ponds at Lydgate State Park has resulted in a mammoth mess of suspended silt permeating the once pristine pools.

Perhaps the fact that there wasn’t one there at last Wednesday’s meeting is why Kaua`i County Council members and administration officials took it upon themselves to decide to do nothing about it and kick the can down the road for at least four months.

But that’s what happens when you appoint your otherwise-unqualified, former campaign manager to head up the Parks and Recreation Department– as Mayor Bernard Carvalho did with Lenny Rapozo— and then fail to consult the engineers in the Department of Public Works (DPW) on a project like this.

It’s no wonder County Engineer Larry Dill wasn’t the the one sent in response to the council’s “request… for the Administration to provide the Council with a status report on the Lydgate Pond Restoration Project” and Rapozo showed up–because Dill, who is new to the county, might have told the truth– that the ponds could be screwed up for years due to county ineptitude and negligence in allowing the project to proceed the way it did.

Rapozo tried to paint a picture of a normal result of the project, telling the council that it will only take six months to get rid of the “turbidity”– a fancy word for the mud and muck suspended in the pool– if we “let mother nature take it’s course” and do nothing.

But between Rapozo’s “don’t worry be happy” message he also described what actually happened.

Seems that the idea was to dredge the “sand” that had accumulated over the last almost 50 years and use it to replenish the beach. But what happened instead– and “surprised” the county according to Rapozo– was that the “sand” only went about three feet deep and below that was pure silt and muck.

Not only that but the sand itself was so full of trash and mixed with the silt that the state Department of Health won’t let them use it on the beach so it sits in a pile now– replete with “coke cans” and “cigarette butts” according to testimony– with no one knowing quite what to do with the mess.

And, according to many who have actually been in the pond, anyone attempting to stand up in it will sink at a foot or more into the bottom “like quicksand,” as it was described.

So in other words despite a decade-and-a-half of planning and obtaining the permits no one bothered to take a core sample to see what was there and just assumed it would all be pristine sand, not the garbage-strewn silt-sand mix that was actually present.

The real problem in fixing it is that when they dug up the giant boulders that had fallen into the pool from the barrier “wall” that created the ponds, and piled them back on it, it created a situation where all that 50 years of silt that had come from the adjacent Wailua River mouth and flowed into the ponds is now “sealed in.”

And of course it will keep out any sand needed to cover the quicksand.

The Lydgate ponds are, of course, one of the “jewels” of the island– a must see attraction for tourists and a mainstay for local parents and their keiki. It also is– or was– one of the most recommended snorkeling locales in Kapa`a/Wailua where, according to many, the Kapa`a area snorkel rental outlets are still sending their customers.

As a matter of fact the whole mess has resulted in a new activity for many local people: ┬ástanding around and watching what happens when the tourists– especially those with rented snorkels and fins– come out covered in muck after 30 second dip in the muddy mess.

Apparently the project was done without involvement of the DPW building and engineering divisions and may be one of the reasons why Carvalho has recently ordered all capital improvement projects be run through DPW.

But that won’t change the past or clean up the mess at Lydgate, the perusal of which was deferred without action until November by the council.

Meanwhile, for those that claim there’s nothing to do on Kaua`i, there’s a new show down at Lydgate… watching the pissed-off, muck-caked tourists struggle to free themselves from the quicksand.

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