Friday, December 12, 2008

Musings: Giant Disconnects

I wasn’t expecting much from the sky this morning, given that it’d been rainy and blustery all night, and dark was the operative word when Koko and I set out walking. But then the sun rose, casting a sheet of gold over the Giant, infusing the gray with a wash of pink and forming a rainbow that flung itself up into the ether.

And then it all faded back to gray again.

The wind was brisk, sending the clouds scurrying to the north and rushing through the trees with that deep hooooooo sound it makes, turning the leaves all backward on the java plum and camphor. Stopped to snack at guava alley, a section of the road lined with ripe waiawi, and ran into my neighbor Andy, who was also picking the yellow fruit.

“Happy Thanksgiving,” he said, because we hadn’t seen each other since the day before that holiday, when I headed out to Colorado to visit my Mom. As I told Andy, she’s moving out of her apartment and into an assisted living facility, a decision that had her feeling excited about meeting new people and making a change.

Even at 84, you can make a fresh start — if you’re willing.

A fresh load of soil was delivered into the sea during yesterday’s storm, in large part because the county is unwilling to get serious about grading runoff, leaving Kauai with a severe case of “ring around the island.”

The situation prompted Don Heacock, our state aquatic biologist, to call me and say he’s been recommending for years that Kauai follow the lead of Washington state and ban grading during the winter months. But the county continues to ignore that suggestion, much to the detriment of our reefs, marine animals and coastal water quality.

I couldn’t help but wonder how the ocean below the Running Waters resort project — now-stalled, and unfortunately, aptly named — fared during the downpour, given that it has so much bare earth exposed on steep slopes. Last time I flew in to Lihue, I couldn’t understand why the county had allowed them to grade such a large area at once.

And if you take a look at Dennis Fujimoto’s photos on The Garden Island website, you’ll see that Kukuiula harbor was seriously muddied and fouled by runoff, too. It seems a likely culprit is all that bare earth at A&B’s Kukuiula project, which has also slowed way down now that luxury digs ain’t selling like they used to.

But in the article that accompanied Dennis’ photos, Don was the only one who commented about the cause of all that muddy water, which prompted the state Health Department to issue a “'brown water warning' yesterday advising the public, statewide, to 'stay out of flood waters (brown water) that may contain pollutants from overflowing cesspools, sewer manholes, animal wastes, dead animals, pesticides, chemicals and associated flood debris.'”

Meanwhile, we have Sue Kanoho, the head of Kauai’s visitors bureau, telling us that we should treat all our tourists with extra TLC because their numbers are dwindling:

"We should all be very aware that the visitors we have now are critical to us. Let’s be sure we're doing the best we can because they are our best advertising. When people have the choice to go wherever they want in the world and their dollar is extra special to them, we need to remember how critical competition (with other destinations) is."

So the tourists arrive and can’t even get in the water or use the beach because the projects that are being built to accommodate more tourists — the ones who haven’t actually yet spent a penny to come here — are polluting the ocean with their runoff.

Don’t county and state officials see the giant disconnect here?

Every now and then, the EPA does get involved, such as leveling a $63,000 fine against Bali Hai Villas in Princeville after finding the company had “failed to install adequate control measures to prevent soil and sediment-filled stormwater from running off the site” while building the condos there.

“It’s unfortunate that for whatever reason they neglected to have their pollution controls in place,” said Dean Higuchi, an EPA spokesman for Hawai‘i. “We went out there once before and found similar violations. We tried to work with them.”

Maybe the fines need to be larger; the company had to pay $15,000 after it was cited for similar violations in 2004.

Ironically, Bali Hai offers its guests a program intended to educate them about the marine environment — while simultaneously polluting it. It's yet another in a series of giant disconnects between what we say and what we do.


Anonymous said...

must be pretty bad if the EPA got involved. yeah maybe stiffer fines would help but also some policy changes would assist as well. sad state of affairs. mahalos for the post.

Anonymous said...

If hundreds of acres of land are graded and then sprayed with cosmetic grass, of course there will be environmental damage. It's like Mountain Top Mining. There are no plant root structures, no trees, no gnarled nests of buffalo grass to absorb the water. Just bare, exposed earth and a spray of fast grass. Sort of like a McDonald's for erosion.
I won't even bother saying "YOU SUCK" to the individuals that demand our tax money to support these projects. The amount of public money and resources that is used is sickening. You, with your college degrees and ocean views, have turned the island into Maui.

Anonymous said...

It is a sad state of politics when a state representative can sit in front of the Hoike camera and testify at the planning commission for a private development; the state rep: Roland Sagum, the development: Kukuiula.

And most of the ʻintelligentʻ parasites on this site wouldnʻt even know what they were witnessing to report it.

Anonymous said...

i like kuk.

and have no problem fining them. i notice this county does not fine very often, and even when they do, it is not very much

and the area there got muddied via kuk. run-off back....oh when was that...that night were the wind gusts were 60 mph? the poipu shore was pretty ugly for a day or two

Anonymous said...

Actually the fining isnʻt so much a county matter as it is the EPA, OEQC, Health Dept and DLNR if the run-off/impacts affect the ocean, streams, etc. And they can deliver some big fines if politics donʻt get in the way; for instance, Grove Farm (donʻt think Lingle would allow her partners to get nailed)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Roland Sagum testified for Kukiula? How much did they "contribute" to his campaign? Is he doing any consulting work for the developer?

Anonymous said...

Believe he is employed by Kukuiula, in what capacity.....donʻt know.

Joan Conrow said...

Roland was working for Kikiaola Land Co., not Kukuiula, as a planner when he got elected. I'm not sure if he's still employed by them or not.

Anonymous said...

nice of you to do the clarification. kudos. i dont know that guy, but i kinda like him; i get a good impression.

would not the 1st key thing be - did he do the proper verbal and on-the-record disclosures? if so....well, those folks are allowed to have a 2nd job right?