Council committee wrestles with sand-mining bill

A Maui County Council committee is considering ways to regulate sand extraction in the county in light of a recent Central Maui sand excavation and export case that came under fire from members of the community and Mayor Alan Arakawa.

On April 27, Arakawa sent a letter to the County Council asking it to examine sand mining, pointing to a 2006 study that said Maui had a five- to seven-year lifespan on inland dune sand. Arakawa’s letter and the county’s examination of the recent grading and sand moving work in Central Maui was triggered by a televised report that showed a Honolulu-based contractor was moving sand from Maui to Oahu.

While sand mining is not illegal, some community members are concerned about the resource being depleted and shipped off-island and archaeological damage.

The council’s Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee took up a proposed bill June 5. It raised the possibility of a moratorium on sand mining, but no action was taken.

Now, the committee is refining the bill, which may not include a moratorium, because work in the recent Central Maui sand extraction case has stopped, according to committee Chairwoman Elle Cochran’s office.

The committee is considering whether to pursue a bill to stop sand mining or allowing it in certain situations, with required discretionary permitting, Cochran’s office added.

Cochran was working on bill revisions with county department officials and attorneys. The matter will be brought up in future committee meetings.

On May 1, Honolulu Construction & Draying stopped moving and transporting sand from a parcel adjacent to Maui Lani Parkway and west of The Dunes at Maui Lani Golf Course. This is after HC&D and landowner Maui Lani Partners received a county notice to correct any violations.

An HC&D official said grading at Maui Lani was in compliance with a county permit. The county agreed that the grading permits were issued properly, but the excavation and exporting of “high-quality sand for making concrete and other purposes meets the definition of a ‘resource extraction.'”

Resource extraction may require a special or conditional use permit, Department of Planning Director William Spence has said.

HC&D President Wade Wakayama said in an email last week that the work on the site has stopped with the exception of some cleanup, erosion control and safety measures.

He said his understanding was that the landowner was working toward a resolution with the county.

Maui Lani Partners officials could not be reached for comment, and county officials did not provide an update.

Wakayama said HC&D has no plans for further sand shipments from Maui to Oahu. The company has begun importing sand from a supplier in British Columbia to serve the Oahu market.

He explained that HC&D typically serves as a site contractor for landowners and helps the owners grade and prepare an active project site.

Whatever happens to excess materials, if any, during the grading process depends upon the circumstances.

Wakayama noted that excess material may be moved to another location on the site where ground fill is needed. Or, depending on the type of sand, some of it may be used to “supply market needs such as building site work, infrastructure back-fill, beach replenishment projects, as well as ready-mix concrete.”

“On projects sites where we work, HC&D complies with all laws governing the proper care of ancient remains that may be found,” Wakayama added.

In his letter to the County Council, Arakawa said the export volume of Maui sand to Oahu exceeds the county’s use by 2.5 to 1, according to the 2006 report. But he added there was a slowdown in demand for Maui sand until the rail project on Oahu needed more sand for construction.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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