Judge’s ruling allows shoreline project to go on
Opponents of Hololani project sought to stop steel piles
The Maui News
A 2nd Circuit judge denied a motion by shoreline protection groups to immediately halt the Hololani condominium association’s plans to drive vertical sheets into the ground, beginning as early as today, in a shoreline protection project in Kahana.
Plaintiff’s attorney Lance Collins said Tuesday that 2nd Circuit Judge Joe Cardoza required expert testimony, which Collins said the plaintiffs did not have time to prepare. He said the plaintiffs, Na Papa’i Wawae ‘Ula’ula and the nonprofit West Maui Preservation Association, only learned of the plan for the sheet piles project shortly before filing the lawsuit in 2nd Circuit Court on July 20.
The shoreline protection groups filed suit against the Hololani condo association and the county. They claimed that the new sheet metal armoring project was an attempt by the Hololani association to work around its failure to obtain approvals for a different seawall and rock revetment project from the state earlier this year.
Collins said the judge did not make any legal determinations but did not stop the Hololani association from beginning its work. The plaintiffs have other cases pending against Hololani shoreline protection projects, including challenges to shoreline certification and a denial by the Board of Land and Natural Resources for a contested case proceeding.
The shoreline hardening efforts are a concern to the plaintiffs because they cause erosion; harm reef ecosystems, fisheries and monk seals; and dissipate beaches leading to loss of access, they said.
The multistory Hololani buildings began facing threats from erosion, and the association started putting up shoreline hardening measures during the winter of 2006-07, the lawsuit said. In February 2007, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources gave the Hololani association emergency authorization to install geotextile sandbags and erosion blankets for three years — after initially putting up an illegal structure. The emergency permit has been reauthorized three times as of May 2014, and the structure remains today.
In the meantime, the Hololani association began work on a more permanent solution, a 400-foot seawall, which received approval from the Maui Planning Commission in June 2014.
The revetment is a sloped wall with a toe that extends into the ocean and would be located in the shoreline area, said acting Planning Director Michele McLean last week. The revetment would be backed by sheet piles.
Because the seawall would encroach onto the state-owned shoreline, the Hololani association was required to obtain an easement, which called for approval by the state Legislature. In the past session that ended in May, the Legislature did not act on the request for the easement.
As a result, the Hololani association sought approval from then-Planning Director Will Spence for a modification of the project. Only the sheet piles would be installed and their alignment would be moved off the state shoreline onto Hololani property, a June 29 letter from Spence to the condo association said. The largest alignment change would involve moving the sheet piles 7 feet mauka of the approved plans.
The existing sandbags would remain; the seawall project would be abandoned, the letter indicates.
The sandbags and sheet piles are only temporary measures until a regional beach nourishment project is completed, said McLean. The properties along Kahana Bay have banded together on the beach restoration project. When that is completed, the revetments and steel piles will be removed.
Spence’s approval of the project change, finding the sheet piles a “minor realignment” change and in “substantial compliance” with its special management area permit, was one of the key issues of contention for the plaintiffs.
The Maui Planning Commission, not Spence, should have made the decision on whether the changes were in compliance with the 2014 SMA permit, the plaintiffs say. This would have opened the decision to public hearings as well.
The plaintiffs also argue that a new environmental assessment is needed, and they are challenging whether the sheet metal piles are totally off the state shoreline and on the private Hololani property.
The plaintiffs learned about today’s date to start work when the Hololani association alerted neighboring properties about the work, Collins said.
The plaintiffs will be meeting to decide their next steps, he said.