I stepped outside last evening at a most fortuitous time, when the lavender-gray sky was streaked with silvery wisps and tendrils and clouds shaped like chess pieces marched along the horizon. A hazy crescent moon, cozily aligned to Venus, was setting in a decidedly southern direction as a faint smear of pink glowed behind the white-ringed purple summit of Waialeale, making it easy to understand why it’s considered wao akua — realm of the gods.
By morning, when Koko and I set out walking, Jupiter had slid toward the cloud-shrouded west and the overhead sky, growing blue, was flecked with bits of salmon-colored fluff. We ran into farmer Jerry at a most fortuitous time, just as a downpour arrived without warning, and he kindly allowed us to take cover in his truck.
As we waited for the rain to let up, I took the opportunity to ask Jerry what he thought about the mayor’s proposal to build the new landfill on about 120 acres at Kalepa, rather than Kalaheo, seeing as how it will take land out of agriculture there.
Jerry said farmers support the plan. They always knew the landfill would be built on ag land, because there isn't enough of any other kind, but the Kalaheo site chaffed because it has already been designated as Important Ag Lands. Under the new proposal, Jerry said, the irrigation system at Kalepa could get restored, which would provide water to another 1,000 acres of there, improving its viability for farming.
It does make sense to choose a more central location for a landfill, and since Kalepa is state land, the county won’t be facing bitterly contested condemnation proceedings, as it would with the A&B-owned site in Kalaheo. Still, I can’t help but be suspicious of Grove Farm’s strong support for the Kalepa/Ma`alo Road site.
For starters, it’s looking to grab the income-producing waste stream produced by the dump, like greenwaste and materials recovery. In other words, the public gets the toxic hole on its land, while Grove Farm gets the lucrative gravy of a “resource recovery park” on its land.
And then there’s the issue of the interior roadway this project will create. According to the mayor’s statement:
Our initial focus will be to provide access to the landfill so as to avoid high traffic areas in Līhu'e, Hanamā'ulu and Puhi. However, the long-term benefits of a bypass between Wailua and Puhi are tremendous. Grove Farm has indicated a willingness to dedicate the land for such a roadway, and I’ve already spoken to Senator Inouye and enlisted his support in obtaining federal funds for the necessary studies and infrastructure.
Oh, really? What a nice little hand out to Grove Farm. How convenient for them, as the major landowner in that area, to have a new road created at public expense to serve their current and future development plans. How likely do you suppose they will be to designate any of that acreage as Important Ag Lands if it’s going to be opened up by a major bypass road? With the ocean and mountain views and proximity to Lihue that some of that land affords, it would make for some choice gentleman’s estates.
Jerry downplayed my concerns, saying Grove Farm has an awful lot on its plate right now and the presence of a dump would likely deter luxury development.
Yes, Grove Farm does have development plans for the land around the airport that will keep it busy for the short-term, but developers are always looking a few decades down the road. And it’s the folks in Hanamaulu who will be experiencing the impacts of the dump, not the wealthy who might purchase estates on the Kilohana end of a bypass road in the future.
Overall, it looks like the proposal to site the landfill in Hamamaulu is coming at a fortuitous time for Grove Farm.
Still, as both Jerry and I agreed, the dump has got to go somewhere, because we’re nowhere near the place of not needing one. And as Jerry pointed out, when our conversation turned to my sister’s recent visit and the awareness it stirred in me of just how many businesses here cater almost entirely to tourists, we’re not likely to get to that place so long as our economy revolves around the visitor industry.
“It’s like all of us who live here are supposed to be going green, striving for sustainability, but meanwhile, we’re bringing in a million people every year to this one small island,” Jerry noted. “It’s absolutely and totally unsustainable. But nobody says anything about that. It’s like we're all pretending it doesn’t even exist.”
By then the rain had passed and we went our separate ways, but not before Jerry gave me two fruit-laden branches trimmed from his longan trees. It seems I had, indeed, chosen to walk this morning at a most fortuitous time.