Join the Order of “Apocolyptic Naysayers!”

Okay, that’s a bit of a joke.* If you haven’t read it by now, Governor Abercrombie was recently quoted as saying people who objected to efforts to curb environmental regulations are apocalyptic naysayers.

Let’s not go overboard. No one objects to reasonable streamlining. But SB 755 would, among other things, (1) allow the Governor to exempt state projects from any environmental review; (2) immunize the Governor from any judicial challenge by the public; (3) allow the Department of Transportation and Department of Land and Natural Resources to exempt themselves from coastal regulations; and (4) exempt airport structures and improvements from coastal regulations.

While admittedly not exactly an apocalypse, this bill goes too far. Our environmental laws ensure residents have clean water and protect our natural resources for future generations. Our regulations cannot be set aside everytime the state experiences an economic downturn. Nor should the public be removed from the decision-making process on roads, bridges, and highways that fundamentally shape our communities.

Can you submit testimony on this bill today? Enter in SB 755 and write your testimony in the “additional comments” section. Tell the House Finance Committee that we can have both a strong economy and a strong environment — we do not have to make artificial choices between the two. Protecting our environment does help our economy.

Bag Bill in Trouble

Throwaway Bag Bill in Trouble
Despite Near Unanimous Support for the Measure, House Finance Committee Has Yet to Schedule a Hearing 

Despite overwhelming public support — from numerous retailers, environmentalists, and businesses — the House Committee on Finance has yet to schedule a hearing on SB 2511, a measure that would place a ten cent fee on paper and plastic bags and fund Governor Abercrombie’s watershed initiative.

“Chair Marcus Oshiro is well aware of this measure and previously indicated he was inclined to hear it,” said Robert D. Harris, Director of the Sierra Club. “One could conclude that the failure to schedule the bill is an attempt by some members of the House to kill the bill without the necessity of a public hearing.”

Over 500 million throwaway bags are given away annually, with a significant number of these bags eventually littering Hawaii’s rivers, beaches, and communities. Under SB 2511, a ten cent offset fee would be imposed on most paper and plastic bags. A similar measure in Washington D.C. reduced consumption of throwaway bag by approximately 80%.

“This bill would work,” said Harris. “It would put the cost of throwaway bags upfront. The places that have imposed such fees have seen plastic bag litter disappear.”

This concept received more support then just about any other bill before the legislature this year. Retailers (such as Tamura’s Market, Safeway, Times, and Down to Earth), businesses (such as Castle & Cooke Resorts, and the Pacific Resources Partnership), community groups, and hundreds of individuals have consistently testified in support of the measure. Legislators have been bombarded by emails, phone calls, and displays in support of the measure.

“This measure received near unanimous support from the public,” said Joy Leilei Shih, a Sierra Club and Surfrider Foundation volunteer. “From girl scouts creating massive displays to elementary students testifying in front of committees, I’ve rarely seen the public so engaged in a legislative bill. Most people seem to just get the importance of this measure.”

Retailers, in particular, noted that this measure would help reduce costs. Currently they pay between 1 to 10 cents for each throwaway bag. With over 500 million bags used each year, this results in significant additional costs that are indirectly passed onto consumers. Reducing the amount of throwaway bags used would not only help the environment, it would help people save some green as well. Reducing store costs would eventually result in lower costs of groceries and household goods.

One of the attractive aspects of this measure was the fact that it would have produced an estimated $12 million in funding for watershed protection, one of Governor Abercrombie’s key initiatives. University of Hawaii climatologist, Tom Giambelluca, recently reported that Hawaii has seen a century-long trend of decreasing rainfall, with greater declines in the last 30 years. Recent scientific research has shown that healthy native rainforests help capture rainfall and direct the water into our aquifers, rather than simply washing off into our oceans.

“Every election year, politicians talk about how they support the environment,” lamented Harris. “This is the time to act – Hawaii residents deserve a cleaner, safer environment. And everyone wants the sources of pristine drinking water preserved for future generations.”

The Sierra Club is stunned that the House Finance Committee might fail to even hear one of the top environmental priorities of the year. 

“Legislators are going to have a tough time explaining to their constituents why they spent time trying to eliminate measures that help protect clean water and clean air, and couldn’t find the time to even schedule a hearing on SB 2511,” said Robert Harris.

SB755 To Destroy Hawaii Environmental Protections

SECTION 1.
The purpose of this Act is to promote economic development by temporarily removing regulatory restrictions to the expeditious construction of certain state and count projects.

SB755_HD2_PROPOSED_

This bill started out as a gambling bill, morphed into a 5 day tax holiday for school supplies and now has been replaced by “Gut Hawaii Environmental Law”.

Pu’unene Mill and Coal Fired Plant Permit Up for Review

The DOH-Clean Air Branch posted public notice for the Covered Source
Permit (CSP) for HC&S at Puunene Mill. It is in the classifieds of
today’s Maui News (see attachment)

You can view the relevant documents at this link:
http://hawaii.gov/doh/cleanairpublicnotices

There is a one month public comment period, with comments due on April
23, 2012. “Any person may request a public hearing by submitting a
written request that explains the party’s interest and the reasons why a
hearing is warranted.”

Comments on the draft permit should address, but need not be limited
to, the permit conditions and the facility’s compliance with federal
and state air pollution laws, including: (1) the National and State
Ambient Air Quality Standards; and (2) HRS, Chapter 342B and HAR,
Chapter 11-60.1.

This facility is the second most polluting for air emissions in the
state of Hawaii.

Open Letter to Hawai’i Legislators

From the Conservation Counsel of Hawai’i

Sign on to the petition, add your comments, see who else has signed on: http://signon.org/sign/an-open-letter-in-defense?source=c.em.cp&r_by=2813884

An Open Letter In Defense of Hawaii’s Environment & Open Government to Hawai‘i State House of Representatives, State Senate, & Governor Neil Abercrombie

We vehemently protest certain undemocratic measures taken by the State House of Representatives, Hawaii State Senate, and Governor Abercrombie to dilute basic sunshine and due process laws that protect the public. Our island canoe is heading in the wrong direction.

Certain legislators have introduced measures which severely shut out the public and due process. These actions disfranchise citizens, corrupt public policies, and undermine democracy. This is not pono.

Numerous evolving bills, including

will exempt state and county government actions and development from Hawaii’s laws which protect and preserve our unique island home through careful analysis, including social, economic, cultural, historical, coastal, marine, and other environmental impacts. This removal of these checks and balances will cause injustice and create undue burden at various levels, including our economic prosperity, quality of life, sense of place, and long-term sustainability. (http://www.civilbeat.com/posts/2012/03/07/15113-dirty-8-erode-three-decades-of-landmark-environmental-law/)

Certain legislators’ eagerness to circumvent or skirt legal requisites in order to fast-track development projects, without first considering inevitable impacts on the overall environment and public participation, show an alarming lack of understanding in core democratic principles. No entity should be above or exempted from the laws that protect us all.

While some legislators are hasty to deny due process and participation to the public, they are careful “to provide indemnity for any county, its officials, or employees for actions taken regarding “exceptional planning projects”. This action is wrong; public servants will be accountable to no one. http://www.civilbeat.com/posts/2012/03/08/15121-open-government-lock-down/

<http://www.civilbeat.com/posts/2012/03/08/15121-open-government-lock-down/>

We unequivocally protest these anti-public legislative attempts to subvert open government. We call upon each legislator to show civic courage – to independently review, boldly vote, and truly enact the people’s business within the core democratic tenets contained in the Hawaii Revised Statutes 343 (Environmental Review), Hawaii Sunshine Law (HRS 92), Coastal Zone Management 205A (SMA), and county zoning and planning.

The line of demarcation must be clear – the People’s right to know and the right to equitably participate in public policies with legislative decision-makers in a fair and open process are not negotiable.

Maui Sierra Club Testimony Points Out Olowalu Flaws

Sierra Club Maui Group Aug 7, 2010
PO BOX 791180
Pa’ia, HI 96779

To: State Land Use Commission
PO Box 2359
Honolulu, HI 96804
Attention: Dan Davidson

Re: Comments on EISPN for Proposed Olowalu Town Master Plan
TMK (2) 4-8-003: 84, 98-118 and 124

Aloha Kakou

Sierra Club Maui Group has been tracking proposed developments at Olowalu since the first Ag subdivision was proposed a decade ago, We appreciate this opportunity to offer comments on the EISPN for the Proposed Olowalu Town Master Plan, TMK (2) 4-8-003: 84, 98-118 and 124.

Our concerns noted in our comments submitted for the project’s CDUA and SMA applications, processed in 2000, still hold true. Although the present project is portrayed as being under new ownership, it does not appear as if any formal arrangements to that matter have been finalized. That being the case, we must comment that a number of comments we have offered earlier, appear to have been proven true over time. This should cast doubt on the viability of future promises of mitigations to solve the impacts of an even larger project in a very sensitive area.

REEFS AND SHORELINE WATER QUALITY

The EISPN includes a copy of a 2003 baseline study on sediment loading, water quality and selected marine life research (Brown, et al) that was conducted in 2001-02. Sierra Club and others recommended Dr. Brown for that particular study, since he had monitored reefs in the Olowalu study area since 1991 through the CRAMP.research program. The landowners, Olowalu Elua Associates, agreed to appropriate $20,000 to fund the 2 year study as part of a settlement of concerns raised by Na Kupuna O Maui during the project’s SMA hearing. Dr. brown recommended ongoing monitoring be done over at least a three to five year period, after the baseline study was complete.

At the time he was requested to conduct the baseline study of Olowalu, Dr. Brown characterized the Olowalu reef as “the best leeward reef in Maui and probably the whole state.” In hearings held by the General Plan Advisory committee and the Maui Planning Commission in 2008 and 2009, numerous marine biologists and researchers offered the same view and asked that the mauka lands not be urbanized and the reefs and water quality be put at risk.

Post Development Monitoring Not Provided

A number of shoreline and fourteen mauka parcels were developed in Olowalu after the baseline study was complete. Dr. Brown clearly stated in his 2003 report that the effects of non-point source pollution and shoreline development on the reefs are “more difficult to detect, because changes to the community landscape are subtle and occur over longer time periods.”

The baseline study was intended as part of a regular, periodic monitoring program for the Olowalu reefs. Nearly a decade has passed and no additional monitoring reports are included or referred to in the EISPN.

In keeping with the proposed project’s intention to be ‘state of the art” and use innovative engineering and planning strategies to be environmentally friendly it should be discussed in the DEIS why no additional monitoring was done to create a complete data profile of year-by-year conditions, post-development. The fact that a new marine study will be included in the DEIS is treated like a “gift’ offered by the landowners, when in fact, it is a long overdue part of an ongoing responsibility to help manage the health of the irreplaceable Olowalu reefs.

We hope that the Land Use Commission will evaluate carefully if the project’s proposed efforts to mitigate impacts to one of the best remaining reefs in the main Hawaiian islands are adequate, or will follow the same pattern of unfulfilled responsibilities seen over the past decade. We might note that large sums of money have spent by the current Olowalu partnership on public relations over the same timeframe, ironically , some of that was aimed at convincing the public that the project sincerely valued the health of the reefs, rather than investing in ongoing reef monitoring that could further reef health.

The EISPN indicated that consultation will be done with the State DOH to determine compliance with Section 401 Water Quality Certification and Coastal Zone Management Consistency. How can agencies made a sound evaluation of the project when so little information about the project’s impacts to ocean water quality and reefs is being provided at this phase?

WATER RESOURCES

The EISPN concludes that the project’s one well will provide adequate potable water, estimated at .75 mgd (750,000 gal per day, or 500 gal day per household) for the proposed 1500 new units. However, estimates of Olowalu’s projected water use listed in the EISPN lack any supporting data and are not consistent with reported use patterns by existing residents over the past several years.

As explained in more detail below, 2007 and 2008 use figures for the existing users of the Olowalu Elua private water system (approximately 50 hookups) show a minimum use of 600 gallons per day/ per household with a 12 month average demand of 1000 gal/day and a peak demand shooting up to 1400 gal/day during the few driest months. It appears that at least some of these residents also have separate non-potable systems that are supplied by stream water. This is a far different demand scenario than that presented in the EISPN.

Olowalu Elua’s well, installed in 2000, has not pumped more than 75, 000 gal a day according to available records. Its rated capacity is 250,000 gallons a day, one third of the amount called for in the EISPN (750,000 gal/day), and less than one fifth what average daily demand rate would be (1.5 mgd) if Olowalu Village had 1500 new hookups using water at the same average rate of current customers.

There is no discussion of the impact of pumping even 750,000 gal/day would have on Olowalu stream although Olowalu Elua’s 2000 SMA Aplication and CDUA acknowledged that the streams were fed by underground sources. The stream originates in the Conservation District Lands. Will Olowalu Town developers seek Conservation District review of impacts their potable water system may place on the public trust resources of Olowalu stream? No such process is referred to in the EISPN. Pioneer mill wells in the area pumped brackish water. Olowalu Elua Water Company is stepping into uncharted territory and should conduct substantial testing before committing to a project of this size. Test results should be included in the DEIS.

Will Peak Water Demands be Unsustainable?

If Olowalu had 1500 new residential hook-ups and an unspecified number of business and civic facilities, a peak demand of 1400 gal a day per hookup for the residences alone would demand over 2 mgd, the entire sustainable yield of the Olowalu Aquifer. The EISPN gives no specific figures for expected numbers of single family, multifamily, ag, rural and business units and their respective water demands under average and peak demand conditions. This is a basic rule of water use planning. If a project claims to be sustainable, this data should have been provide as early as possible.

The EISPN does not specify water use demand figures for peak use periods or include fireflow demands in this fire prone area. All this information could have easily been included in the Prep notice, to allow the public and agencies more time to comment. It must be included in the DEIS

The EISPN does not specify if the existing 19 ag lots and the 25 or so additional residences at Old Olowalu (Kapaiki) Village will be included in water demand figures. The DEIS should make this clear.

Can Current System Uses Predict Future Demands?

The EISPN does not give current usage levels and demands on the private Olowalu system although they are easily available from the State Water Commission. The Olowalu Elua water system well, in 2003-04 research done at the State water commission, reported having 18 hookups and having a pump capacity of 250,000 gal/day (.25 mgd) .

State Water Commission reports filed during 2007 and 2008 noted pumping totals ranging from 30,000 gal day to 70,000 gal day for the private well that is the sole source of the Olowalu system. (Well number 4936-01 -Olowalu Elua). The 12 month moving average pumping was 50,000 gal a day throughout both years.

Neither the EISPN nor the Olowalu Elua Water company webpage indicated how many users the system currently serves. The DEIS should make this clear.

If the Olowalu system serves19 ag subdivision lots, Olowalu Plantation House activity venue, Camp Olowalu and the 20 odd residences of Old Olowalu Village (Kapaiki) it may be estimated to have around 50 hookups. Based upon available data, at a moving average of 50,000 gal day, each Olowalu residence would use 1000 gal per hookup, not 500, as specified in the EISPN. If there are fewer hookups, use rates would be higher.

At those rates, project demand for a full buildout of 1500 units, under average conditions, could be as much as 1.5 mgd, especially if fireflow, municipal and business use was included. This is twice the demand level that is being suggested in the EISPN.

No figures were given in the EISPN for peak system demand. Current usage

Figures indicate higher demand during several of the drier months a year. Then current system usage jumps from forty to fifty thousand gallons a day to 60 or 70 thousand. If this same pattern holds with a larger customer base, additional wells could be required and the safe yield mark of 90% of Olowalu aquifer’s sustainable yield (1.8 mgd) could be exceeded for 3 to 4 months a year.

It is clear that adequate data has not been presented in the EISPN regarding viable water sources for the project at its proposed size. We would strongly recommend that the Alternatives section of the DEIS include an analyses of several smaller project sizes and their respective water needs.

DRAINAGE

Figure 12 in the EISPN is a very confusing and poorly detailed map depicting the project area’s vulnerability to flooding and high waves. The EISPN does not include any of the various maps picturing projected sea level rise or the fire hazard ratings for the area. This information, although it may not be the best for project PR, is essential part of an environmental disclosure document.

Figure 12 appears to indicate that around two-thirds of the proposed project area would either be:

  1. subject to flooding during a 100-year storm (Zone X-shaded): the FEMA description of this zone reads: “Area of moderate flood hazard, usually the area between the limits of the 100-year and 500-year floods”
  1. Be part of the base floodplain (Zone AE). The FEMA description of this zone reads: “Areas with a 1% annual chance of flooding and a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage.”
  1. Be part of a river or stream hazard area (Zone AO). The FEMA description of this zone reads: “River or stream flood hazard areas, and areas with a 1% or greater chance of shallow flooding each year, usually in the form of sheet flow, with an average depth ranging from 1 to 3 feet . These areas have a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage.”
  1. Be part of a high risk coastal area. (Zone VE)The FEMA description of this zone reads:” Coastal areas with a 1% or greater chance of flooding and an additional hazard associated with storm waves. These areas have a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage. Base flood elevations derived from detailed analyses are shown at selected intervals within these zones.”

Less than one third of the entire 636 acre proposed project site appears to be in an area of minimal risk according to the FEMA flood map. While the project proudly declares its intention to create cultural preserve of 110 acres and a series of coastal parks, it should also provide a clear map overlaying the proposed open space and preserve areas with the respective hazard zones.

It is possible that sound planning would indicate that additional lands should be added to these preserves to minimize risk to future homes and businesses and the project’s unit count adjusted appropriately.

Several areas at 26 % risk of flooding during the next 30 years appear to be included in the proposed urbanized areas. With such vague, poorly defined maps, it is hard to determine the full extent of potential flood impacts.

One thing is clear. It is remarkable how little of the project area lies out of the flooding hazard risk zone, and a significant portion of that land is already part of the earlier mauka ag subdivision.

While Olowalu is an area of limited rainfall where floods may occur only every few years, the significant change being proposed by the Olowalu village project to the land should be viewed as a major potential impact to the downslope lands, waters and reefs.

We request that the DEIS include a chart which clearly indicates how many acres of the proposed project are located in each FEMA Flood hazard zone, and what percentage of those acres are proposed to be developed at what densities.

Of note, the EISPN did not depict the areas of gley soil or the traditional pond areas at the southwestern portion of the project area that were investigated and reported by archaeologist Erik Fredricksen in his 1999 AIS report. These are listed in Fredricksen’s AIS and subsequent Preservation Plan. A map indicating these areas (Fig. 13) is included in the recently issued DEA (July 2010) for the proposed Poseley Residence along the Olowalu shore in the project area.

Because the only Master Plan Map of the proposed Olowalu Town subdivision (Fig 4) is so vague and artistic, it is difficult to determine and comment on any impacts proposed residential areas may have to these intermittent wetland areas. We request that a map with the planned urban areas, rural lots and open spaces be included and it be overlaid with the archaeological site map used by Rory Frampton in the Poseley EA. Soil classification maps should clearly show these prospective wetland areas that were tested by Fredricksen and more testing should be done.

Old timers, such as the late David Chenoweth, commented on the ponding that has been traditionally visible at various areas of Olowalu mauka of Honoapiilani Highway. The proposed plan to urbanize Olowalu areas immediately mauka of the highway that now serve as drainage and seepage areas for upslope runoff should be seriously questioned even if the best state of the art drainage basins are being proposed to mitigate the impacts.

PRESERVATION OF AG LANDS

Prime ag lands are prime ag lands, even if the present owners are not interested in finding a viable way to keep the majority of the land in agriculture.

The “traditional community of Olowalu” that this project is supposedly “reviving” was based upon large agricultural areas and very small habitation footprints, exactly the opposite of what is being proposed in the Olowalu Town project.

The Land Use Commission should look for more than platitudes about the project’s lack of agricultural use, before taking the irreversible step to turn legendary agricultural lands into another tourist attraction on the way to Lahaina.

The Secondary and Cumulative Impacts section of the DEIS should discuss the impact of nearby lands being designated Urban on existing AG zoned parcels within Olowalu. Will those19 parcels be more likely to ask for zoning changes to break into smaller parcels and qualify for additional house lots?

The Alternatives section of the DEIS should seek out a qualified professional to prepare an alternative Agricultural Village concept with a much smaller population demand and an analyses of crops appropriate to the area’s soils and water supply. A Draft EIS must examine true alternatives to comply with HAR §11-200-17 which specifies content requirements for a DEIS.

FLORA AND FAUNA

The Olowalu Town partnership has spent vast sums on radio shows, video and brochures to push for the urbanization of Olowalu. It is a sad commentary that this “Sustainable Community” has been unwilling to invest in an updated biological survey. Instead the EIS refers to two documents, one from 1999 which possibly only included part of the site and the other, from 2005, which was well done, but covered only 14 acres of the 636 acre site.

No further biological survey work is proposed and the mitigation offered is a vague intention to use native plants where practicable. It is unclear how this disinterest in obtaining any additional knowledge of the area’s traditional flora and fauna through analyses of pollen and other paleo-botanical research matches with the desire to have an “ahupua’a based” community design.

Plants were the building blocks of traditional Hawaiian culture. What harm could an updated botanical survey of the entire property do?

CULTURAL PRESERVATION

Olowalu Cultural Reserve has a preservation plan for its numerous burials and important cultural sites. It has a Five Year Strategic Plan. It has a dedicated board of directors and regular community involvement.

What it currently appears to lack is just what was mentioned in Sierra Club’s 2000 comments on the Ag subdivision SMA: “Will the community based group overseeing the Olowalu Cultural Reserve be given adequate funding to complete the recommendations of the Cultural Preservation Plan?”

The preservation plan called for construction and /or maintenance of viewing platforms, access trails and landscaped buffers at various cultural sites, such as Kaiwaloa heiau, site 4710- precontact habitation complex, site 4718 heiau, Pu’u Kilea and others. It called for maintenance and protection of Awalua cemetery, various burial mounds and caves and the petroglyphs at Pu’u Kilea.

Ten years have passed and the majority of Olowalu sites are overgrown and

In need of regular attention. Native Hawaiians who come to care for the graves of their kupuna have been told to leave by adjoining property owners.

Olowalu Cultural Reserve board members have worked hard to restore kalo along the stream, a major undertaking, but it appears that they have been given the responsibility, but not the resources to fulfill the promises of the adopted Preservation Plan. The DEIS should discuss what level of resources will be provided and how the lease arrangement for the land can be converted into a perpetual easement.

It is also unclear what the fate of several sites in the area of the proposed new upper road will be. Site 4821 burial scatter, 4699 burial cave, 4701 and the site 4700 complex are all in the vicinity of the proposed road.

The status of the previously documented sites in relationship to the new proposed Olowalu village layout, needs to be clearly explained and shown in a map in the DEIS. With 11 confirmed or probable burial areas already identified in the mauka portion of the project area and one burial area in the makai portion, the likelihood of further burials is high.

We would recommend a further level of testing be conducted at the LCA sites to determine possible subsurface features as well as the original path of Olowalu stream. The DEIS should discuss protection of Awalua cemetery. It does not appear to be located in the cultural preserve area.

The DEIS should provide a map showing the additional acreage being proposed to be added to the cultural preserve.

Mahalo for this opportunity to comment. We wish to remain a consulted party.

Lucienne de Naie
Sierra Club, Maui Group

EIS for Ulupalakua Geothermal Lease at Library

Makawao Public Library has just received for public review:

Environmental Impact Statement Preparation Notice.  Ulupalakua Geothermal Mining Lease and Geothermal Resource Subzone Modification Application

Public comments are due:  March 27, 2012

Makawao Public Library

573-8785