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Council OKs sand mining ban until end of year

The Maui County Council passed a bill Tuesday that extended a moratorium on sand mining in Central Maui, allowing the county time to complete a study on sand availability and to possibly pass new laws.

The extension will last through Dec. 31. The bill, which passed second reading Tuesday, now heads to Mayor Alan Arakawa’s desk for his signature.

The initial bill establishing a temporary moratorium was passed by the council on Jan. 5 and signed by the mayor on Jan. 19. The moratorium expired July 19, to the concern of advocates who feared iwi kupuna, or ancestral bones, would again go unprotected.

The vote on Tuesday was seven to one with Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura opposing. Council Member Don Guzman was absent and excused.

Prior to the vote, Sugimura said she would oppose the measure, as she did on first reading, saying “instead of having the moratorium, let’s fix the problem.”

She said the bill does not address the protection of the iwi kupuna or resource extraction.

Sugimura noted that housing for residents is being impacted by the moratorium. For example, Maui Lani, which opposes the bill, said it has a 400-unit housing project that is “shovel ready” but is being delayed by the moratorium, she said.

Issues over sand mining on Maui were brought to light in 2017 in a Honolulu TV news station report. It said that a contractor was removing and shipping truckloads of sand to Oahu from the site of Maui Lani’s housing project cited by Sugimura. The practice soon stopped at the site.

The moratorium gives the county more time to update a 2006 study on available sand and to pass laws regulating mining, extraction and removal of sand. It was supposed to last six months or until the goals of the moratorium were carried out — whichever came first.

The study was expected to be completed by June 29, but only the first draft was finished by that date. At a July 2 council committee meeting, Public Works Director David Goode declined to release the draft study and sought to extend the deadline for completion to the end of the year.

A pair of bills relating to sand mining still are in the council’s 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.

In other action Tuesday, the council approved a bill that would amend the fees for use of county parks facilities and equipment. The amendment comes as users complained about a $20 across-the-board fee increase approved by the council for the current fiscal year.

The fee hike was supposed to take effect July 1 but was not implemented. Parks department officials told the council that the change would cause permit offices to be closed for a week because staff had to manually input the changes into the computer system.

The bill, approved on second and final reading, allows for a 25 percent across-the-board hike over the old fees. The change means rates mostly would increase by a few dollars instead of $20. The ordinance would go into effect on Sept. 1, following the mayor’s signature.

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