New & Noteworthy: Waikoloa, False Killer Whales, a Correction

posted in: June 2018 | 0

Waikoloa Woes: The long-stalled rural development known as Waikoloa Highlands, just outside of Waikoloa Village in the Big Island district of South Kohala, is in jeopardy of losing its development rights granted by the Land Use Commission.

In 2008, the LUC approved a redistricting petition seeking to reclassify 731 acres owned by Waikoloa Mauka, LLC. Since then, the developer has failed to move forward in any visible way with the planned residential community of nearly 400 large-lot homes.

Under the LUC’s order approving the redistricting, from the state Agricultural district to Rural, substantial “buildout” – the backbone infrastructure required for the sale of individual lots – had to be completed within 10 years of the approval date of June 10, 2008. The Hawai`i County rezoning ordinance also had a deadline that passed two months ago: By March 21, 2018, work on the first 50 lots of the subdivision had to be completed.

On May 23, the LUC met to discuss the status of the project. No representative of Waikoloa Mauka attended, although the LUC staff made diligent efforts to notify the developer of the meeting. Sidney Fuke, the Big Island planning consultant who at one point worked for the company, informed the LUC he was no longer involved. Fuke last submitted an annual report on Waikoloa Mauka’s behalf to the LUC in 2016.

Following a brief recap by Hawai`i County Planning Department deputy administrator Daryn Arai as to the project’s status with the county, Land Use commissioner Jonathan Scheuer made a motion to have the commission chair and staff prepare an order for Waikoloa Mauka to show cause as to why the redistricting should not be revoked.

After several other commissioners chimed in with their support for the motion, it passed unanimously. (The November 2016 issue of Environment Hawai`i reported on this project in greater detail.)

Hook, Line, and Sinker: In April, the Hawai`i longline fleet furthered its trend of interacting with false killer whales on the high seas. On the 26th, a deep-set longline vessel hooked a 13-foot whale. While handling guidelines call for lines to be kept taut, thereby increasing the chance that the whales will straighten the hooks and free themselves, the captain ordered the line cut in this case to prevent gear from flying backward and injuring crew members. As a result, the whale was released with a hook in its mouth and trailing about half a meter of wire leader and 1.5 meters of monofilament line, according to an incident report. The following day, during the same set, a 20-foot false killer whale got caught on the line, but somehow broke free as the crew retrieved the gear.

The incidents bring the total FKW interactions with the longline fleet in 2018 to four. Only one of those have occurred within the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around the islands. Should another whale be killed or seriously injured by the fleet within the EEZ this year, a large swath of fishing area south of the islands will close to longlining for the rest of the year.

Correction: In our April story, “Court Finds Federal Agencies Violated Law In Granting Permit, Setting Loggerhead Cap,” we misspelled the name of NOAA’s Kristen Johns. We regret the error.

Quote of the Month

“There might be a way to think about phasing. … We can’t just do this all everywhere, all at once.”

— Tetra Tech’s Kitty Courtney on implementing climate change adaptation measures

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