NEW & NOTEWORTHY: Iopa Seawall, Hu Honua, Water Security

posted in: January 2017 | 0

Seawall Comes Down: The seawall in Keaukaha that was put up early last year has come down – for the most part, at least. The wall was built by Robert Iopa, an architect who owns the lot immediately mauka of the wall. The then-director of the Hawai`i County Department of Parks and Recreation, which manages the state-owned area of the wall under an executive order dating back to the 1920s, had given Iopa permission for the wall.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands was unaware of the wall until neighbors brought the matter to its attention.

In May, Iopa agreed that he would remove it by mid-November – a deadline that was extended, with DLNR’s consent, to the end of the month.

According to one neighbor, even as the new construction was being dismantled, Iopa had brought in additional fill to raise the grade of the area.

Such concerns were not addressed, however, in a letter that OCCL administrator Sam Lemmo sent to Iopa on December 16. “Based upon [a] site inspection of December 8, 2016, the OCCL has determined that the unauthorized constructed section of the seawall has been removed … to the department’s satisfaction,” Lemmo wrote.

Hu Honua Goes to Court: The owners of a half-built power plant in Pepe`ekeo, Hawai`i, are suing Hawaiian Electric and NextEra in federal court, seeking more than half a billion dollars in damages. Also named as a defendant in the lawsuit is Hamakua Energy Partners, whose 60-megawatt plant near Honoka`a Hawaiian Electric is seeking to purchase.

Hu Honua, which has been working to build a biofuel-powered generating facility on the site of the former Pepe`ekeo sugar mill, north of Hilo, had an approved power purchase agreement (PPA) with Hawaiian Electric. Work fell behind schedule owing to a host of factors, including disputes with laborers and contractors, financing problems, and permitting issues.

Last January, Hawaiian Electric notified Hu Honua it was terminating the PPA because the company had missed a milestone. Hu Honua argues in its court filing, however, that the deadline for termination following the missed milestone had passed well before the termination notice.

After failing to get the Public Utilities Commission to order Hawaiian Electric to rescind the termination, Hu Honua took its case to federal court.

The company claims HELCO, the Big Island subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric, has violated the Sherman Act by engaging in monopolistic behavior and restricting trade. It also is alleging breach of contract. No trial date has been set.

Slow Start to Water Security: Act 172 of the 2016 Legislature instructed the state Commission on Water Resource Management to establish a Water Security Advisory Group and to issue up to $750,000 in matching-fund grants, based on the panel’s recommendation for proposals aimed at increasing Hawai`i’s long-term water sustainability.

The panel has yet to be established. In its report to the 2017 Legislature, the Water Commission explains the difficulties it has encountered in attempting to carry out the Legislature’s wishes.

Among other things, the commission identifies issues of procurement, questions over the process for approval of recommended priority projects, potential conflicts of interest involving “committee member organizations to receive grants,” certification of matching funds, the applicability of Chapter 343 (Hawai`i’s environmental review law), the state’s environmental documentation process, and, not least, limited staff.

“It will be challenging to implement this act given current staffing levels and other ongoing projects and commitments,” the commission stated. “However, the commission will work diligently to implement this act.”

Anticipated actions are to establish the Water Security Advisory Group and conduct meetings; set up a formal account to receive funds to implement the act; “coordinate with the attorney general’s office, state procurement office, and state Ethics Commission to ensure compliance with applicable laws and rules;” and, finally, “initiate the process of soliciting competitive sealed proposals … by establishing an evaluation committee and preparing a request for proposals.”

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