Judge issues stay to stop all earthmoving at Maui Lani

Ruling is a victory for groups worried about archaeological monitoring, burials

Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza issued a 10-day stay Wednesday that prohibits Maui Lani Partners from sand mining, grading and excavating in a victory for groups concerned about archaeological monitoring and disturbing of burials in the Central Maui area.

A hearing on the lawsuit and order will be held in Environmental Court at 8 a.m. Friday, the ruling says.

The lawsuit filed July 24 by Malama Kakanilua and members Clare H. Apana and Kaniloa Kamaunu asked to the court to halt earthmoving activities by Maui Lani Partners in Maui Lani Phase IX until it complies with its archaeological monitoring plan.

The plan calls for full-time monitoring during grading and for one monitor per piece of ground-disturbing equipment, the lawsuit said. Plaintiffs say they have observed earthwork performed in the absence of a monitor and “are also very concerned that burials have been disturbed and desecrated and that all additional ground-disturbing activities threaten to further disturb and desecrate burials.”

Maui Lani officials have said that all earthmoving activities were overseen by an archaeological monitor in compliance with the state-approved monitoring plan.

Another complaint in the lawsuit focuses on the grading permit that Maui Lani and contractor HC&D are operating under. They both received county notices on May 1 to correct violations because the excavation and exportation of high-quality sand for concrete and other uses meet the definition of “resource extraction,” which requires other permits.

Lance Collins, attorney for the plaintiffs, said last week that he did not believe the developers could obtain the special-use or conditional permit because of the property’s residential zoning.

An official with Maui Lani said last week that no materials have been removed from the area since May 1. Mayor Alan Arakawa said in his “Our County” column in The Maui News on Friday that he had reached agreements with HC&D and Maui Lani calling for them to not ship Maui sand to Oahu for rail and other projects.

This lawsuit comes as a County Council committee considers ways to regulate sand mining in light of the Maui Lani case. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs also has expressed its intention to get involved.

Still, the group decided to file the lawsuit because burials may be disturbed “in the weeks and/or months before any government action occurs,” the lawsuit said.

“Malama Kakanilua members feel a sense of relief that the burials have been put under court protection for now,” said Collins on Friday. “They look forward to seeking permanent protection for these important areas.”

The hui was formed years ago to protect the iwi (bones), burials and other historic and archaeologically significant sites on Maui. The group is named for Kakanilua, a famous battle that occurred in the sand hills of Central Maui, Malama Kakanilua has explained.

Attempts to obtain comment from Maui Lani Partners on Friday were unsuccessful.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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