Island Watch

posted in: July 1994 | 0

Will Pu’u Anahulu Well Benefit Waikoloa Luxury Homes, Golf Course?

As Environment Hawai’i reported last month, the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Water and Land Development is planning to drill a $1.2 million, 18-inch well in the Pu’u Anahulu area of the Big Island. Although the well is described as “exploratory,” the environmental assessment prepared for it makes no secret of the fact that the well is intended to be a producing well.

On February 25, 1994, when the Land Board considered approving the project (which at the time was for drilling a well just 12 inches in diameter, at a cost of $410,315), DOWALD’s chief engineer, Manabu Tagomori, was asked what projects the well would support. Tagomori replied that the well was in support of no project – that it was rather just for “knowledge” of the regions underground water supplies.

However, just nine days later, the County of Hawai’i Planning Department sent notice to Ken Melrose, vice president of the Waikoloa Development Co., that the company’s proposed Highland Golf Estates subdivision had received tentative approval. At its closest point, the area to be subdivided is just a few hundred yards down slope and to the north of the area where the well is to be drilled.

No Questions Asked

The county Planning Department files indicate that Waikoloa received the necessary change of zoning from the County Council in 1990, although little progress has been made to date in developing the subdivision. Waikoloa’s plans call for 286 lots, one to two acres in size, and an 18-hole golf course, pro shop, restaurant, and snack bar. The second phase of the project will have 114 house lots, for a total of 400 lots.

In all the county’s deliberation on Waikoloa’s applications, the question of the water source for the golf course and house lots was neither asked nor answered. Instead, Waikoloa simply assured the county, in response to a question on the application form, that water would be provided by its privately owned but publicly regulated utility, the Waikoloa Water Company. The next logical question – where WWC would get its water – was never raised. According to a staffer at the county Department of Water Supply, the Waikoloa Water Company’s existing two wells, on the north side of Waikoloa Village, are barely able to keep pace with the demands of the village. New water sources would have to be found to support the golf course and subdivision of 400 large house lots.

One of the few comments on DOWALD’s draft environmental assessment for the well came from Ken Melrose, Waikoloa’s vice president. “Waikoloa Land Company, the developer of the 31,000-acre master-planned community of Waikoloa, is the owner of the adjacent lands to the north of the proposed Pu’u Anahulu Exploratory Well Drilling Project,” Melrose wrote. “The proposed project is one that we consider to be necessary to assist the state of Hawai’i in gaining much needed, accurate information… As such, we offer our support of the project and for a negative declaration determination.”

Legislative Approval

Money for the well was approved by the 1992 Legislature when it authorized $950,000 for a capital improvement project described as the Pu’u Anahulu Water System. The project information and justification sheet states that the project “will possibly provide water to meet the water needs of the planned development of the Pu’u Anahulu area.” In addition, the information sheet, prepared by DOWALD, states: “The lack of water prevents the development of state lands in the area. This project will provide information on the water resources and may provide water for planned development of the area.”

In a letter dated June 16, 1994, and addressed to the editor of this newsletter, Tagomori explained the increased size of the well from what was proposed to the board to what was described in the environmental assessment. “Due to the low bid price, it was decided to drill an 18 inch exploratory well instead of the 12-inch and conduct a pump test with a submersible 14-inch centrifugal pump to determine well feasibility at a rate of 300-1400 gpm [gallons per minute]… The results will determine the pump rate and as to whether or not this exploratory well be [sic] developed into a future production well.” In apparent response to the question as to when the Land Board would be informed, Tagomori writes: “We will inform the Board of this change.” No date for notification is provided.

Will it Grow?

The Land Board may not be informed yet, but Land Board Chairman Keith Ahue is aware of the increased scope of the project. On March 1, 1994, the Tuesday following Land Board approval, Ahue sent a memorandum to Governor John Waihe`e requesting the release of $875,000 in construction funds for the Pu’u Anahulu Water System, pursuant to Act 300 of the 1992 Legislature.

Ahue wrote: “Because our pre-bid estimate exceeded the available funds, we reduced the original scope of work from an exploratory well (drilling, casing and pump testing) to a 12” diameter pilot hole with minimal pump testing to determine water quality. Bids were opened on February 3, 1994, to very favorable results… probably due to scarcity of upcoming well projects.

“In addition to constructing the pilot hole as bidded [sic], we would like to expand the scope of work to include reaming the pilot hole to 26″ diameter (in preparation of the casing installation).”

No response to the memo was available in DOWALD files. The estimated cost of the project ($1.2 million) given in the environmental assessment does not match up with the estimate provided in Ahue’s memo ($875,000), nor does it jibe with the amount available through appropriated funds ($950,000). The only other work associated with this project was a $4,000 survey of likely well sites conducted in 1991 by a Colorado firm.

In the DOWALD files made available to Environment Hawai’i, no explanation could be found of how the $1.2 million figure was arrived at or whence the additional $250,000 needed to pay this amount would come (the difference between the legislative appropriation and the estimated cost). No copy of an executed contract was available for review.

Volume 5, Number 1 July 1994

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