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State briefs for December 30

Former official named leader of rail project

HONOLULU — A former city official was named interim leader of Honolulu’s rail project.

The board of directors for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation on Monday named Lori Kahikina as CEO, effective Friday. She’s the first woman and the first Native Hawaiian in the position, according to a statement from the transit system.

“I am ready for the challenge of moving this important project forward,” she said. “I commit to doing the best job possible for the citizens of the city and county of Honolulu and our entire state.”

Kahikina was director of the city’s Department of Environmental Services for eight years under Mayor Kirk Caldwell, whose term ends Saturday.

In that role, she oversaw a $5.2 billion wastewater project connecting Kailua and Kaneohe, which city officials refer to as the second-largest public works project next to the rail system.

Before that, Kahikina was Honolulu’s director of design and construction.

“She knows how to build infrastructure projects. She is a competent leader who knows how to complete projects within the budget set and within the time set, and has a track record of doing so,” Caldwell said earlier this month.

Kahikina, who received a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Hawaii, will replace CEO Andy Robbins, whose contract was not renewed. She said her contract is for one year and she will be paid $275,000.

“We look forward to Lori’s leadership at this crucial point of the rail project. She has a proven record of success in difficult engineering projects and is not afraid of a challenge,” said transit authority board chairman Toby Martyn.

Air-conditioning plans shut down because of costs

HONOLULU — Plans to air-condition many commercial and government buildings in Honolulu using cold deep-sea water were shut down because of increasing construction costs.

Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning LLC pursued the project for 16 years, spending $25 million, obtaining all major regulatory approvals and signing up numerous customers.

Customer Service Director Gregory Wong said construction cost estimates increased from $275 million to $400 million. The company is expected to halt administrative functions by the end of January.

“We had come so far,” Wong said. “It’s disappointing that we have to stop now. Still, we appreciate the great collaboration and the relationships we’ve had the opportunity to develop over the years.”

The system would have turned seawater into air conditioning by pumping cold seawater to a land-based heat-exchange plant to chill a closed system of fresh water sent to individual building air-conditioning systems through underground distribution lines. Leftover warmed seawater would have been returned to the ocean, where the water is about the same temperature.

The project originally planned to build a 4.7-mile pipeline tapping seawater about 44 degrees from more than 1,700 feet below the ocean surface.

Company officials estimated the system would save building owners and residents up to 75% on air-conditioning costs and eliminate 77 million kilowatt-hours of electricity used annually, or enough to power about 13,000 homes.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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