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Ban on mining of sand advances

Council committee gives its approval

WAILUKU — A Maui County Council committee voted Monday to recommend extending a moratorium on sand mining in Central Maui through Dec. 31, allowing the county time to complete a study on sand availability and possibly pass new laws regulating sand mining.

“Well, you just never know, do you?” testifier Clare Apana said, following the Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee’s decision. “We always trust that our kupuna know what they doing, and today we got an extension, which is very, very needed to get this worked out.”

The extension must now pass two readings at the full council.

Originally passed by the council on Jan. 5 and signed by the mayor on Jan. 19, the moratorium expired Thursday, to the concern of advocates who feared the iwi kupuna, or ancestral bones, would once again go unprotected.

The moratorium had put a temporary halt to inland sand mining in Central Maui, allowing time for the county to update a 2006 study on available sand and to pass laws regulating mining, extraction and removal of sand. It was supposed to last for six months or until the goals of the moratorium were carried out — whichever came first.

The study was expected to be finished by June 29, but by then only the first draft had been completed, Public Works Director David Goode said at a July 2 committee meeting. Goode would not release the study, saying the department still had comments and concerns. He said staff wanted to extend the study’s deadline through the end of the year.

A pair of bills related to sand mining, meanwhile, are still in the council Land Use Committee. One would clarify the definition of resource extraction in the Maui County Code to allow the county to better regulate it. Another would allow certain county and state officials to enter a property to ensure compliance with permits.

“Given that these steps have not taken place, our iwi kupuna are still at risk of sand mining in Central Maui if it’s not stopped,” said Council Member Elle Cochran, who chairs the Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee. “We must extend the moratorium and allow extra time for long-term solutions.”

Cochran proposed extending the moratorium through Dec. 31, or until the goals of the moratorium were satisfied, whichever comes first. Her proposal would also allow the council to again extend the moratorium if needed. Nearly 20 testifiers, including several young students, called for an extension at the July 2 meeting.

With the clock ticking, Cochran sent a proposal to county attorneys on July 9, who reviewed it and sent it to Cochran’s committee the next day. Council Chairman Mike White said the bill was not included in the council’s Friday meeting agenda because it was already pending in Cochran’s committee.

On Monday, four of the five testifiers supported the bill.

“I’m not only for expanding the moratorium. I’m for putting it in place permanently and turning these areas into sacred grounds that they are for future generations to be able to come and pay their respects and appreciate the natural beauty of these lands,” Haiku resident Barbara Barry said.

Pamela Tumpap, president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce, opposed it. She said that “the public has already footed an extensive bill as this got reviewed the first time, and it would seem that we’d want to wait until that study is completed before asking the public to go through that again.

“The study is moving forward, progress is being made, and we don’t see a need to continue the moratorium further,” Tumpap said.

Council members were supportive of the extension, though they disagreed on how long it should last. Council Member Alika Atay suggested three months after the study’s completion in December, to allow the council time to take action in response to the findings. However, Council Member Bob Carroll disagreed, saying “the more you push it, the more people wait.” Council Member Riki Hokama said by the time a new council got settled and took action, they might run into budget season, and the sand-mining issue could fall to the wayside.

The committee eventually voted 6-0 in favor of Cochran’s original extension of Dec. 31.

Goode said afterwards that he expects the study to be completed within the next two to three months. He told the committee that his department had “no comments” on the proposed extension and that he’d talked to staff about how to handle new permit applications in light of the bill’s requirement that it “shall take effect retroactive to July 19, 2018.”

“I was informed by the staff that they’re not aware of any active applications at this time,” Goode said. “We would have to monitor and be careful of any new applications that come in between now and when it would have to become law.”

Goode said that the department added conditions to its permits that allow government agencies, “including but not limited to” the state Historic Preservation Division and the county Planning Department, to enter a property. However, he said it would help to have the backing of a bill — such as the one sitting in the Land Use Committee — because it would be stronger and more difficult to change.

Alec Wagner, legislative analyst for the Land Use Committee, said one of the sand-mining bills was last heard in January and had yet to be rescheduled. He wasn’t sure when the bills might come up again. Carroll said he hoped to hold a special meeting during a week when the regular council is not meeting.

“We have done most of the work already,” he said. “There’s not all that much more to do.”

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.