New & Noteworthy: Aina Lea and Draft EIS for EMI

posted in: October 2019 | 0

‘Aina Le‘a Stumbles: On August 26, Robert Wessels, who heads up ‘Aina Le‘a, Inc., forwarded to the Hawai‘i County Planning Department an environmental impact statement preparation notice (EISPN), prepared by Christian Renz, a Waikoloa landscaper.

In the decade since Wessels first appeared before the state Land Use Commission as the developer of a project known as the Villages of ‘Aina Le‘a, sandwiched between the Mauna Lani resort and the Village of Waikoloa, in the Big Island district of South Kohala, the preparation of an acceptable EIS has been one of the biggest stumbling blocks to development of what Wessels now calls the Town of ‘Aina Le‘a, consisting of 20 residential villages over the next two decades. Infrastructure and building lot preparation alone are projected to cost $246,867,500, Wessels has claimed.

Wessels anticipated publication of the EISPN in the September 8, 2019 Environmental Notice and accordingly scheduled the required public meeting for September 26 at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott hotel.

But on September 9, Planning Director Michael Yee notified Wessels that the department had rejected his EISPN. Yee cited numerous problems with the draft EISPN, including zoning designations, claims that a previous, 2010, EIS that was deemed inadequate described the current project, and an increase in the number of units over what had been previously approved by the county and the Land Use Commission.

Undaunted, Wessels still had the scheduled meeting on September 26. No one from the Planning Department attended.

East Maui DEIS: The draft environmental impact statement for a 30-year license allowing East Maui Irrigation Co. (EMI) to continue to take water from East Maui streams has been released. And, at 2,700 pages, it is as lengthy as it is long awaited.

The action proposed in the DEIS is a continuation of the status quo, subject, however, to the state Commission on Water Resource Management’s order in 2018 to restore flows to ten of the previously diverted streams and increased minimum flows in several more. Also, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands holds a reserved right to some of the water.

Alexander and Baldwin no longer owns the lands in Central Maui that were the rationale for the development of the EMI system, starting in the 1870s. It sold those lands to Mahi Pono in December 2018. But it retains an ownership interest in EMI. According to the DEIS, A&B and Mahi Pono are co-owners of EMI.

In addition to serving Mahi Pono lands, the DEIS states, the diverted water will supply the Kula Agricultural Park and the Maui Department of Water Supply’s upcountry system.

“It is estimated that at full operation of diversified agriculture, approximately 85.22 mgd [million gallons a day] of water will be directed to the fields of Central Maui,” the DEIS states. “Of this amount, approximately 22.7 percent, or approximately 19.34 mgd, is estimated to be lost through evaporation and seepage in unlined ditches and reservoirs located in the Central Maui agricultural fields. …. The remaining 65.87 mgd would be used for irrigation…..”

A link to the DEIS is available on the Office of Environmental Quality’s web- site. Comments are due November 7.

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