Letter: Dryland Forest

Wailea 670 (Honua’ula) EIS Does Not Comply With Dryland Forest Condition


wiliwili tree

I thought that the remnant wiliwili forest in Wailea 670 was saved when the County Council unanimously amended Condition 27 of its rezoning bill to create a conservation easement that “shall comprise the portion of the property south of latitude 2040 degrees 15 minutes north, excluding any portions that the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Corps of Engineers find do not merit preservation, but shall not be less than 18 acres and shall not exceed 130-acres.”

Now the developer, Honua’ula Partners, has released an environmental impact statement preparation notice which shows their plan to put houses and golf holes on 87 percent of the area described as conservation easement:

“Honua’ula Partners LLC has voluntarily decided to conserve portions of Honua’ula and attempt propagation of selected remnant native dry forest plants located onsite. A conservation easement, entitled ‘Native Plant Preservation Area’ of approximately 22 acres will be located in the southern portion of the property, bordered by the golf course holes 13 and 14 and single-family and multi-family residential areas (See Figure 1).” That Figure 1 deletes the 2040 degrees 15 minutes north latitude line that is shown on the map for Condition 27.

This reduction of the easement from 130 acres to 22 acres would be legal only if the DLNR, USFWS and USCE had issued findings that 118 acres of the area were not worth saving, but these agencies have issued no such findings.

So what is going on here? Are Honua’ula Partners so sure that the agencies will sign off on the destruction of these 118 acres that they are proceeding on that assumption? What would the leaders in these agencies think of such presumption? Or do Honua’ula Partners plan a legal strategy to get around the wording of Condition 27?

But there’s more. Honua’ula Partners alter Condition 27 when they quote it, deleting the “the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the United States Corps of Engineers find” to end up with only “excluding any portions that do not merit preservation” (P. 23). What are Honua’ula Partners trying to do by adulterating the text of the rezoning bill? Honua’ula Partners owe the people of Maui an explanation.

In his last minutes – at 10:49 p.m., Dec. 19 – as chairman of the County Council, Riki Hokama gave a prophetic preamble to the vote on Makena Resort rezoning when he said:

“On Lanai, when the council gave approval for zoning of projects there, they inherited 3,000 free pro-bono inspectors — the whole island is an inspector. And, I’m sure that the Makena homeowners, and those that love Makena will be a lot of free inspectors watching how the project progresses and making sure that it will be done right.”

Every person on Maui can become one of these “free inspectors” by downloading the environmental impact statement notice from the state Web site http://oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov/Shared%20Documents/EA_and_EIS_Online_Library/Maui/2000s/2009-03-08-MA-EISPN-Honuaula. Comments must be submitted by Tuesday to the Maui Planning Department, the Maui Planning Commission and Honua’ula Partners.

Wailea 670 contains one of the largest remnants of wiliwili forest in Hawaii. The native trees and flowers and pollinators that live on the harsh lava and the remains of ancient kanaka maoli homes are testaments of strength and survival and are truly Hawaiian treasures.

The County Council has shown that it is the will of the people to protect these treasures, but regrettably, it appears that it will take constant vigilance to ensure that protection becomes reality.

Lee Altenberg has served as chairman and board member of the Native Hawaii Plant Society. His report “Remnant Wiliwili Forest Habitat at Wailea 670” is referred to in Condition 27 of the Wailea 670 rezoning bill. He lives in Kihei.