Cochran seeks to extend Central Maui moratorium on sand mining

The legislation has a July 19 expiration date

Adriane Raff-Corwin, coordinator for the Sierra Club Maui, instructs marchers Monday in front of the county building. The marchers attended a council Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee meeting to call for an extension of the moratorium on sand mining in Central Maui, which expires this month. The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photos

WAILUKU — Council Member Elle Cochran said Monday that she plans to seek an extension to the Central Maui sand-mining moratorium, which expires July 19.

The six-month moratorium, which the council passed in January, was supposed to allow time for the county to complete a sand analysis and to pass new laws regulating sand mining — neither of which has happened yet.

“I’d like to extend the moratorium because in the meantime . . . nothing is being protected out there,” Cochran said Monday at a meeting of the Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee, which she chairs.

Cochran also asked the county Department of Public Works to release a draft study on sand availability, but Director David Goode said it was still being reviewed.

After televised news reports of mining of Central Maui inland sand sparked community concerns last year, Mayor Alan Arakawa asked the council to examine sand mining. Cochran’s committee took up the issue in June 2017.

University of Hawaii Maui College sophomore Iwalouise Bryan (from left), Kamehameha Maui senior Kahelelani Alipio and homeschool student Leilani Maui march to the county building in support of protecting iwi kupuna, ancient bones.

Seven months later, in January, the council approved a moratorium on inland sand mining in Central Maui. The moratorium provided time for the county to analyze the available sand and to pass laws regulating mining, extraction and removal. It was supposed to last for six months or until the goals of the new ordinance were carried out — whichever came first. Those goals include the study and new laws on sand mining.

A 2006 study said that Maui had a five- to seven-year supply of inland dune sand. The new study also will estimate how much sand is available, based on uses such as construction and beach nourishment. Goode said it was supposed to be finished by June 29, but “unfortunately due to time constraints” with the contractor’s staffing, the department did not receive an initial draft until late last week.

“So we had to extend the time,” he said. “Staff chose a six-month extension to the end of the year to give us ample time to fully understand what they found so far, address any questions we may have.”

But Cochran expressed frustration and wondered why the study couldn’t be released to the public.

“Here we are, (the moratorium) is going to expire in a few days, and I am just flabbergasted that this report isn’t done,” Cochran said.

Cochran pointed out that other documents are available to the public in draft form, including community plans. But Deputy Corporation Counsel Richelle Thompson said draft documents “are not usually released to the public” and that if the public requested the report, “the department most likely would not” release it.

Goode said that he wanted the study done “as bad as you folks,” but got the first draft later than expected. He also pointed out that the study is just one of the things the county has to do before lifting the moratorium.

The council is considering a pair of bills related to sand mining. 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 — such as the State Historic Preservation Division — to enter a property to ensure compliance with its permits. Council Member Don Guzman, who authored the bills, said they would better define the roles of the county and state that before were “unspoken.”

Guzman said the bills took a back seat to the budgeting process and were currently in the Land Use Committee.

In the meantime, Cochran said she hoped to put out a resolution within the next couple of weeks asking for an extension of the moratorium. Cochran said after the meeting that she wanted a minimum of six months but preferred one year. She said that “we’re going to have to hustle and get this done,” given that her committee’s next meeting is not until July 23. The committee could not take action Monday because a proposal to extend the moratorium was not on the agenda.

Marchers and testifiers spoke in support of an extension Monday. Just over a dozen marchers, many of them young students, walked from the Bailey House Museum to the county building with signs and chants of “protect the iwi.”

Homeschool student Leilani Maui said that “desecrating the lands where our iwi kupuna are buried is like cutting off one of our arms and telling us, ‘Suck it up, it happens, it’s life.’

“I feel very strongly because it’s a sacred thing for our kupuna to be buried and taken care of, to be left to rest in peace,” she said. “And that’s not what’s happening just because we don’t have a designated place with headstones and names.”

Noelani Ahia, who testified in court last year about earth-moving activities at a Maui Lani project site, thought the moratorium should be extended “regardless of the results” of the sand study.

“The results should give guidance for future legislation but will take time and effort to develop,” Ahia said. “In addition, there has been no legislation written to further protection of potentially hundreds or thousands of iwi kupuna who are under threat of being desecrated.”

Goode said that the study has been sent to about 10 people in the county Public Works and Planning departments, the Office of Economic Development and the state Transportation Department Harbors Division. They’ve been given a week or two to respond.

When asked after the meeting why the draft report couldn’t be made public as with environmental assessments, Goode said those studies usually have more time and money to review public comments.

“It’s only a small $25,000 contract,” he said of the sand study. “So if I have 1,000 comments to deal with, it’s kind of unmanageable.”

He said it’s “a technical study” and that the department wants to review the numbers and get its questions answered “so we can defend it.”

“It’s just too incomplete to put out there,” he said.

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