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Environmental resilience remains at forefront of council’s business

COUNCIL'S 3 MINUTES

As a Native Hawaiian and chairman of the council Environmental, Agricultural and Cultural Preservation Committee, I believe in taking care of our environment.

The Hawaiian concept of Aloha ‘Aina is a way of life that practices reverence and stewardship for all life forms and the land. Aloha ‘Aina recognizes our responsibility to ensure that our children’s children have a healthy environment.

Now is the time to step up and take responsibility for the negative impacts on the environment. We cannot continue with the ways of the past.

As a council, we are currently working to change the way we treat our precious environment by addressing ocean pollution from our wastewater injection wells, climate change, culturally significant sites, the use of toxic pesticides, plastic pollution and overtourism.

Earlier this month in our council Governance, Ethics, and Transparency Committee, we heard hours of testimony from residents asking the county to settle the Lahaina injection well case.

Our mayor is concerned about the high costs of addressing the wastewater effluent entering our ocean waters on Maui’s west side. I believe money comes and goes, but the environmental costs of allowing wastewater effluent to enter our ocean will be permanent.

As such, we need to settle the lawsuit and not risk a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that could allow the county to keep the same practices causing environmental degradation and allow corporate polluters across the country to dump toxins into groundwater.

Climate change is another huge environmental issue we are facing. Recognizing the importance of this subject, I have recently introduced a few Charter amendment proposal options to create a Climate Change Sustainability and Resiliency Office, much like the office of the same name in Honolulu.

This department would be responsible for tracking climate change, anticipating impacts such as shoreline erosion, delineating new Special Management Area boundaries and coordinating countywide policies and actions. The Charter amendment also could create a Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency Commission, which would gather scientific information and advise county departments.

Caring for our environment also means reducing the use of chemical pesticides. I have been working with the Department of Public Works and the Department of Parks and Recreation on a bill that would eliminate the use of synthetic pesticides on county-owned land.

Both departments have reported a huge reduction in their use of products containing glyphosate, like Roundup. The proposed legislation will codify these practices and create a path to eliminate toxic land management practices.

My hope is this legislation will protect county workers, children, residents and visitors from being exposed to cancer-causing products.

In my committee, we also are working on legislation to eliminate single-use plastics. These products pollute our beaches and waters and cause harm to marine life.

Our committee also has been discussing the environmental impacts of overtourism and the need to promote a more sustainable tourism industry. Visitors come to Maui County for our beautiful beaches, oceans and reefs.

The National Park Service addressed overtourism at Haleakala National Park by regulating the number of visits to the park and collecting fees that are used to preserve the park’s pristine natural environment. With this policy, the park highlights our responsibility to protect our islands while still welcoming visitors to appreciate the park’s beauty.

The county should follow the park’s example so we can protect both the quality of life for our residents and our economic engine of tourism.

Our state motto instructs us to be good stewards of the land by echoing this sentiment throughout the islands: “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka ‘Aina i ka Pono,” which means the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. We need to begin taking our responsibilities seriously for the security and enjoyment of current and future generations.

* Shane M. Sinenci is chairman of the council Environmental, Agricultural and Cultural Preservation Committee. He holds the council seat for the East Maui residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.