Phantom water management area blocks affordable housing
Dear Editor, Oct 9, 2023
I’ve noticed two issues holding up new housing projects in Kailua-Kona and surrounding areas.
There is a plethora of archaeological sites south of Palanai Road that are holding up new housing.
The Commission on Water Resource Management, on the other hand, has implemented a phantom water management area designation for the area north of Palani Road that has put a hold on new housing there also.
As a result, new developments proposed for this area by Stanford Carr and Hawaiian Homelands remain in limbo because the CWRM has decided not to allow the drilling of new water wells into the aquifer.
This issue was supposedly addressed back in 2015 when the CWRM tried to implement a water management area for West Hawaii. The National Park Service asserted the drilling of water wells into the aquifer above the Kaloko-Honokohau N.P had an adverse effect on park resources.
The perfect storm of these water and archaeological issues have made it difficult to develop new housing in Kailua-Kona. This has resulted in more people moving out of state, or to areas like Hawaii Ocean View Estates and Puna in search of affordable housing. I strongly believe we need to ease up on these barriers or the current status quo will continue.
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Pohoiki: Zendo Drops a Bombshell
Dear Editor, Oct 2, 2023
The entire $90 million of all-but-guaranteed FEMA Kilauea eruption recovery funding has apparently been lost because of a handful of cultural Protectors.
One way to soften bad news is to deliver it couched in so much blather that the audience doesn't even realize something tragic has occurred. It sure worked for Planning Director Zendo Kern at Tuesday's Pahoa Town Hall Meeting with Mayor Mitch Roth. When queried about ocean access in Puna, the Mayor deftly passed the question off to Zee.
What's the good news?
The DLNR and DOBAR are committed to dredging Pohoiki one section at a time, the state Environmental Assessment appears to be sailing towards acceptance, and the preliminary funding is already in place.
What's the bad news?
The dredging .. as well as any improvements made to Isaac Hale Park -- can't begin until the highway and waterline from Puna Geothermal to Pohoiki are replaced.
Since that will be done with federal money, it must have a federal EA.
Unfortunately, all the Kilauea recovery projects were clumped into one EA, including the road down to Cape Kumukahi. And because pre-historic graves were desecrated down there after the 2018 lava flow shut off the entrance, Protectors want exclusive access to that area until a cultural study can be commissioned. And they told that to the federal grant administrators in no uncertain terms. And FEMA evaluators - who have always seemed a bit skeptical on the whole premise of excavating an entire bay - were given the ideal excuse to kick all LERZ reconstruction funding back to the bottom of the To Do list.
And when is FEMA scheduled to revisit our $90 million application?
How's Director Zee taking the jilting?
"This is unbelievable. This is not right!"
So just what happened?
Thanks to cultural Protectors, the Pohoiki boat ramp dredging project is now dead-in-the-water.
(See transcript below)
Mayor Mitch Roth's Pahoa Town Hall Meeting, September 26, 2023
(YouTube 1:15:54 to 1:19:18)
Planning Director Zendo Kern in response to a question regarding ocean access in Puna:
"(A)ccess to the coast is essential. Right now, we're working diligently on the road restoration back down Pohoiki Road, Highway 137, and lighthouse Road. The state -- DOBAR, DLNR -- they're going to be dredging First Bay to open up the ramp. The concept that they're looking at is ultimately dredging all the way to Third Bay and then that might restore access and restore those reefs filled in with sand. It might be like the perfect barrel, that would be the hope.
“And so that's going to be done in phases because the DOBAR doesn't have a tremendous amount of money. So the first phase is going to be getting the boat access going on and what Dawn Chang said is that they would look for additional money to keep phasing out and then dredging all the way up to Third Bay reef.
“So that's one element that I think is somewhat low-hanging fruit. Uh, the other element would be down to the new beach area down at Kumukahi.
“Within that: The EA.
“So the EA that was required for the road restoration is not a county EA. It is a federal EA. The FEMA required the EA. So, it's FEMA's EA. It's FEMA's process. We're a party to it, and we're pushers on it, and we're yellers on it and all the rest of it to keep them moving. We meet with them every couple weeks with Water, DPW and, with Parks, and we're continuing to work on this.
“Now the draft came out for the EA and we received a number of comments on it and there's varying comments and most of them are related to opening up Kumukahi and it's divided. Some folks don't want it open. Some folks do want it open. And so FEMA looked at it and said these comments are substantial and they gotta through it and look at it.
“So they are looking at it and we were on the phone with them yesterday, and two weeks before that, really trying to drill down on what's the timeline. What's the timeline to address the comments, go through the process?
“And I want to be really real. They couldn't give me one.
“And I asked, well, if you could think of a timeline, what would you have?
“They couldn't give me a timeline and we pressed in some other ways and it was really frustrating and I even told them, I mean, we're going to be sitting in front of community and community expects to have some type of answers. We're five years into this. And this is unbelievable. This is not right!
“And I went into community. I, you know, I grew up here. It's a big deal. And so we, well they can't give us the timeline.
“We're going to be helping them with work, with trying to have them understand, because I always have this worry that they're disconnected. That they don't understand what's happening here. So our team that's on the ground is going to be working with them. We meet with them every two weeks to follow up and push and push and push. So it's uncertainty right now, and I don't want to come and say it's going to be couple weeks. I don't want to give fluff because we are about being real. It's about being transparent and sometimes that's delivering crappy information and that's all I got right now as far as that goes.
“What we're hoping for though is to come out with a good solution, and be able to … open back up and honor all of the elements that are tied into that. I don't want to get into the details, but try to come up with that solution.
“And then we've had many of conversations about potential other areas that we could look at on a larger scale and I'm hoping that we can continue that conversation. But I think that with opening up Pohoiki, there's also talks about looking at Ahalanui, that area, and we've talked to DLNR around that. There's a little group that's coming together.
“So we're looking potentially at three different points to get the access back and what I can tell you is that we won't stop pushing on it."