County did crush rocks from Iao, part of eco-composting procedure

Our County

Recently, there’s been some unrest in the Native Hawaiian community regarding pohaku, or stones, being removed from Iao Valley.

I realize stones are very important — sacred even — in Hawaiian culture, but the county cannot help the people of Iao without moving the stones to another location.

For one thing, there’s no room in Iao to store 3,000 tons or more of stones. It’s a narrow valley with no open areas that are easily accessible. In order to repair our public infrastructure, namely our flood control, bridge and Kepaniwai Park, we need room to operate and that means moving things around.

The stones are being stored on county land in Waikapu and that’s where they will stay until we take them back to Iao Valley and use them to help reinforce the riverbed from future floods.

Now, there’s also been some talk about stones being crushed at the Central Maui Landfill. I am here to say yes, absolutely, they have been crushed.

Some may ask, why crush the stones at the landfill while you’re storing the other stones at Waikapu? The answer is simple, because we weren’t expecting to find stones at the landfill, not a lot of them at least.

The county trucks going to Waikapu were transporting stones, and the trucks heading for the landfill were taking trees, mud, silt and other compostable debris to the landfill where it would be processed into eco-compost.

However, when the trucks got to the landfill and unloaded they found some smaller rocks and stones mixed in with the rest of the debris that can’t be processed as compost. So the crews at the landfill do what they always do and separate materials for processing. The wood, mud and silt were processed as eco-compost and the rocks were crushed to be used as fill for the landfill.

So yes, the county crushed rocks from Iao. Was it this vast conspiracy to mine river rock? Of course not. Did we mean to offend any Native Hawaiians by doing what we did? Absolutely not. Otherwise, why did we even bother to separate 3,000 of the rocks to be stored at the Waikapu just so we can crush 20 tons of smaller rock at the landfill? That sort of reasoning makes no sense whatsoever.

We crushed the rock for the simplest of all reasons: it was there when crews were separating compost material. There were no thoughts about putting the stones back on a truck and having them stored in Waikapu because we did not believe that to be an issue at that time.

Obviously for some people it was, and again, there was no intention to offend anyone by our actions.

The problem is, certain members of the community are trying to make this a bigger issue than it is and are saying the county departments shouldn’t have access to emergency funds because of the crushed rock.

About 30 people showed up to testify on this subject before council on Oct. 11. They complained not just about stones being removed but also the work that Wailuku Water Co. is doing in Iao Valley, which has nothing at all to do with the county’s infrastructure projects there.

Thankfully, Maui County Council members voted to approve the reimbursement of emergency funds to county departments that were doing emergency work in Iao Valley, in relation to the Sept. 13 flood. Council Chairman Mike White showed great leadership along with six other council members when they voted, because they knew the priorities were to fix public infrastructure and ensure public safety.

In comparison, the other two council members decided to pander to the crowd and vote against approving the funds. Remember that the work the county is doing in Iao is to reopen Kepaniwai Park, clear debris from the Wailuku River and make the area safe for not just residents in the valley, but residents living downstream as well.

Why would council members Don Guzman and Elle Cochran vote against repairing public infrastructure and protecting life and property?

Maybe you can ask them. You could write an email, make a phone call or maybe even express yourself while voting for council candidates this November.

The Iao flood should not be used as an election year tactic to get more votes. Make sure you tell them that somehow.

* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, discusses county issues and activities of county government. This column usually appears on the first and third Fridays of the month.