NEW & NOTEWORTHY: Pepe`ekeo Access, Hu Honua, and a Rememberance

posted in: August 2017 | 0

Pepe`ekeo Access Closed: On June 26, Steven Strauss, attorney for Scott Watson, informed the Hawai`i County Planning Department that his client intended to “permanently close” the temporary public shoreline access along his property in Pepe`ekeo, about 10 miles north of Hilo. Watson and a neighboring landowner had developed the temporary route so Watson and his co-owner, Gary Olimpia, could build a large house near a coastal cliff along which ran the approved public access easement.

True to his word, on July 10, the temporary access was closed with a hogwire fence that, in addition, closes off the legal public access, approved as part of the Special Management Area permit conditions of the subdivision that created the lot. Strauss had stated that “the owners intend to post a sign showing the location of the existing legal access,” but as of July 17, no sign had been posted.

A staffer with the Planning Department told Environment Hawai`i that formal complaints had been filed with the department and that its enforcement division was in the process of scheduling a site visit.

In a “media release” that accompanied the letter to the Planning Department, Strauss stated that Watson and Olimpia “have tried, without success, to work out boundary and setback issues through three successive county planning directors and their staffs…. [T]he county has taken years too long without securing safe access for the community. Landowners regret that they  must now modify their project and people will not be able to safely walk to the shoreline anymore.”

Ashes, Ashes…:  As the Public Utilities Commission considers whether to approve the power purchase agreement between Hawaiian Electric Light Co., the Big Island utility, and Hu Honua for a bioenergy plant in Pepe`ekeo , one of the issues that has come up will be how ash from the plant will be handled.

In preliminary filings, Hu Honua claimed its ash handling plan was so sensitive as to not be part of the publicly disclosed documents. On July 12, the PUC disagreed and ordered Hu Honua to release the plan.

It did so two days later – and the plan itself, consisting of one page of ungrammatical prose full of misspellings, could lead one to think fear of public embarrassment was behind the desire to keep the plan under wraps.

The plan is short on details but suggests the ash will be highly desirable to local farmers as a soil amendment, raising the pH of the soil. Unlike sugar, the plan states, “corn, along with other crops gown (sic) prefer a more neutral pH soil condition. … The successful ag farmers in the area requiring a more neutral soil pH for their corps (sic) must purchase lime.” So Hu Honua plans on selling wood ash as a cheaper substitute for lime to area farmers.

Until such time as the chemical composition of the ash is determined, however, the ash will be trucked to a county landfill. The brief ash handling plan makes no mention of whether Hu Honua has consulted with the Hawai`i County Department of Environmental Management over its plans.

A staffer with the county DEM stated that anyone wanting to dispose of ash at the landfill would need a permit and that, to date, no one from the company had approached the department to discuss this.

Lloyd Loope:  With sadness we take note of the passing of Lloyd Loope on July 4. For nearly 40 years in Hawai`i, he pioneered research into the devastation wrought by invasive species, worked tirelessly to bolster quarantine protocols, and gave willingly of his expertise and sage advice in supporting students as well as field workers who will, it is to be hoped, continue his efforts on behalf of Hawai`i’s environment.

In 2000, Loope was honored with the Distinguished Service Award by the Secretariat of Conservation Biology in Hawai`i. As Environment Hawai`i noted in its report at the time, Loope “has been instrumental in just about every major conservation program on Maui in the last decade. It was Loope who sounded the alarm over the threat to native species posed by the planned expansion of Maui’s Kahului airport to accommodate increasing numbers of overseas flights. Loope spearheaded the battle to eradicate Miconia, a weedy species that was threatening to establish a foothold on Haleakala’s slopes. Loope was instrumental in establishing the Maui Invasive Species Committee, which has served as a model for similar committees on all the other islands.”

His family asks that any donations made in his honor go to the Maui Invasive Species Committee, Box 983, Makawao HI 96768 (please make checks payable to UH-Foundation). Services are scheduled for September 2, 4 p.m., at the MISC office in Makawao.

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