Council committee tweaks sand extraction bill

WAILUKU — A bill aiming to regulate and look into sand extraction in Maui County is undergoing changes, as a Maui County Council committee continues to mull the measure that arose from an uproar over a recent sand excavation and export case in Maui Lani.

Council Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee Chairwoman Elle Cochran on Monday introduced another version of a bill to establish a moratorium on mining, extraction, stockpiling or excavation of inland sand. No action was taken.

The bill was sparked by Oahu-based Honolulu Construction & Draying moving and exporting sand off-island during grading work for Maui Lani Partners. On May 1, HC&D stopped moving and transporting sand after the company and Maui Lani Partners received a county notice to correct violations.

HC&D has said that the grading was done in compliance with a county permit. The county does not dispute the grading permit but says that the excavation and exportation of “high quality sand for making concrete and other purposes meets the definition of a ‘resource extraction,’ “ which requires other permits.

Those opposing the sand grading also were concerned about bones found during the work and whether they were handled properly. HC&D and Maui Lani Partners said they followed protocols and archaeological monitoring as required.

Cochran’s new proposed bill comes under Maui County Code Title 20, or “Environmental Protection,” rather than Title 19, or “Zoning,” under the old bill.

She said after the meeting that the newly drafted ordinance will move quicker through the review process under the environmental protection code. If the bill was still under the zoning code, it would need to be forwarded to the county’s three planning commissions for review before coming back to the council for final approval.

She added that the law is about protecting the environment. “It (still) does get the job done,” she said, noting that the new bill remains the same, just under a different section.

There still would be a moratorium on mining, extraction, stockpiling or excavating of inland sand until an update to the 2006 Maui Inland Sand Resource Quantification Study is completed and the Maui County Council passes an ordinance relating to sand work. This would have to be done within a two-year time window or the moratorium will end, according to the draft bill.

While committee members and county administrative department heads did not object to the bill’s changes, some council members raised the issues of unintended consequences.

Council Chairman Mike White said that he received a call a couple of weeks ago from people who the county had given money to for the care of the Tom Morrow Equestrian Arena. They said they couldn’t get sand for the Haiku arena.

White said that by the time the caretakers were moving on the project “the folks at Maui Lani had stopped providing sand.”

He questioned whether the bill would affect preschools trying to fill their sandboxes.

White said he is “very supportive” of a moratorium on the exportation of sand but less comfortable on other matters unless there is clear direction.

He said earlier in the meeting that the council is respectful of the burials but noted that burials do not only exist in sand. If the bill is to protect burials then it should not only be limited to sand.

Responding to concerns, Cochran said that the Kaanapali golf course has shipped in sand from off-island and it does not “break the bank” and that she is not looking to include any exemptions to the bill, noting that the moratorium is only temporary.

Council Member Alika Atay pointed to finding a balance, noting that some community members are talking about the bones of their ancestors, but that there also is a demand for sand for construction on the island. He said that the bill would enact a moratorium, which will give the county time “to make a better decision.”

Atay commended Maui Lani Partners and HC&D, which told him that they will not export Maui sand to other islands.

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

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