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Road repair project stalls over burial site concerns

WAILUKU » Officials have halted a road repair project on Maui’s Kahekili Highway while they figure out how to best protect a nearby burial site.

The Maui News reports that project coordinators discussed the site Wednesday with the Maui Lanai Islands Burial Council, which plans to make a decision on a burial treatment plan in February.

“The issue of ancestral bones is going to become more relevant as more development takes place on this island,” said council Chairwoman Kapulani Antonio. “We understand that the land is for the living, but we also have to respect our ancestral kupuna.”

In 2010, the county had planned to reconstruct and resurface pavement on about 1,100 feet of the highway when they were alerted to a burial site in the area, said project archaeologist Erik Fredericksen.

A public burial notice states that a survey confirmed a cave was located west of the highway near Kahakuloa. Vegetation grew over the cave, and a rock wall built by a resident protected its entrance, Fredericksen said.

“According to (a resident), there are several burials inside,” Fredericksen said. He could not see the remains, but he said it’s typical in these types of investigations to rely on community testimony.

Project coordinators told the council about the burial site a few years ago, but they wanted to bring the matter to the attention of new council members.

The initial proposal of the burial treatment plan, Fredericksen said, is to build a buffer 20 feet in diameter around the site.

The burial council’s decision on Feb. 17 will be sent to the State Historic Preservation Division for review.

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