New & Noteworthy: Riviera Redux; New Dolphin Data; Important Ag Lands; Monk Seal Recovery Plan

posted in: September 2011 | 0

Riviera Resort Redux: Remember Charles Chidiac’s failed efforts to build a resort in one of the remotest areas of the state? It did not end well, with more than 16,000 acres near South Point, on the Big Island, being turned over to creditors and eventually sold to Val Peroff in 2006.

Now Peroff’s Nani Kahuku `Aina is proposing a new development, called Kahuku Village, for the area, much of which consists of barren, `a`a lava. Near the Mamalahoa Highway (the Hawai`i Belt Road), on the mauka portion of the land, the developer has promised to dedicate 125 acres to state and county agencies for “civic facilities,” which could include an elementary school, park, police and fire stations, and an emergency medical facility. Near the ocean will be a mixed-use village on 1,600 acres. Included in the development are 1,050 residential units, two hotels with a total of 600 units, a golf course, commercial area, and a 500-acre “Hawaiian Heritage Center” that “will be empowered to steward and preserve the site’s many resources.” The developer anticipates the project cost will exceed $1 billion.

The draft environmental impact statement for the project was released August 8. Comments close September 21. A final EIS will need to be completed before the Land Use Commission begins deliberations on the merits of the redistricting required before the project can proceed.

New Dolphin Data: “The longer you spend looking at false killer whales, the more you find,” said Erin Oleson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the false killer whale take reduction team meeting in late July.

During the most recent Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey, conducted last year, researchers did, in fact, see a lot more false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) than they did in 2002. That year, only one was seen, compared to 14 in 2010. 

As many as 13 more may have been detected acoustically, but Oleson said that her agency has not yet tried to confirm the species. (The rough-toothed dolphin and the short-finned pilot whale sound similar to the false killer whale, she said.)

What’s more, although Oleson stressed that the results are still preliminary, DNA analysis of samples taken from false killer whales suggests that the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands may have a population that is distinct from the pelagic and Hawai`i insular populations.

A stock assessment report based on the survey is expected to be released next year.

Better Late Than Never: O`ahu may become the next island to start mapping its important agricultural lands (IAL) in accordance with Act 233, passed in 2008. Under the law, counties were to begin designating IAL in July.

Until recently, Kaua`i was the only county to attempt to do so. During its last session, the state Legislature adopted a resolution urging the City and County of Honolulu to expend the $500,000 it had dedicated in its 2010-2011 fiscal year budget to determine its IAL. In July, Kathy Sokugawa of the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting told the Hawai`i Economic Development Task Force that the city planned to spend $200,000 to develop preliminary maps and plans to issue a request for proposals for the job. Once that’s done, the city would take those maps to the community and to landowners for comment.

Monk Seal recovery: The National Marine Fisheries Service is taking comments until October 17 on a draft programmatic environmental impact statement for Hawaiian monk seal recovery actions.

The preferred alternative (Alternative 4: Enhanced Implementation) includes expanding seal translocations, developing methods to modify undesirable seal interactions with humans and fishing gear, deworming young seals to improve their chances of survival, supplementing their diet at feeding stations, and using vaccinations to mitigate infectious diseases. Alternative 3 includes all of the items in the preferred alternative except translocations of monk seals from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to the Main Hawaiian Islands.

The monk seal population is critically endangered, with the current population estimated at about 1,125 individuals. The population has been declining in recent years at an annual rate of 4.5 percent.

Hearings will be held September 12 in Honolulu, September 13 in Moloka`i, September 14 in Hilo, September 15 in Kihei, and September 17 in Lihu`e. The document was released August 19 and is available online at:

A Correction: In our August issue, we reported that the Natural Area Reserves System Commission had delegated its authority to staff to draft right-of-entry conditions for an ordnance survey of the `Ahihi-Kina`u NAR. We also reported that the right-of-entry would have to be approved by the Board of Land and Natural Resources. In fact, due to an emergency proclamation by Governor Neil Abercrombie (which NARS staff was not aware of at the time of the commission meeting), no Land Board approval was needed.

Volume 22, Number 3 — September 2011

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