August 08, 2012 | 12:42 PMLIPOA POINT UNPRESERVED!
Yeah, folks, you read that right. On Thursday, Aug. 2, five members of the Maui County Council voted to approve Maui Land & Pineapple Company's request to take about 150 acres of Lipoa Point–the heart of legendary surf and snorkeling spot Honolua Bay, and the subject of land development controversy for decades–out of preservation. ML&P's stated reason was that the company needed the land as collateral for its 1,600 pensioners.
That's right: one of the most beautiful and popular natural wonders of the island reduced to collateral. You know, it was just four years ago that the Maui Land spokesperson insisted to me that the company's plan (at that time) was for an 18-hole golf course and 40 luxury homes that did not encroach on Lipoa Point. In fact, at the time Maui Land president David Cole boasted to a Maui No Ka Oi reporter that he had a Save Honolua Coalition bumper sticker on his car "because I want to save Honolua, too."
Of course, the company's board sacked Cole in the early 2009 after the company sustained bad losses. Which might, at least in part, explain why things are so different now.
According to Save Honolua Coalition President Tamara Paltin, who attended the hearing, Councilmember Mike White made the motion, with Mike Victorino seconding. Councilmembers Gladys Baisa, Joe Pontanilla and Danny Mateo joined them, with Elle Cochran (a past president of Save Honolua Coalition), Don Couch and Bob Carroll voting nay (Riki Hokama was absent).
Before the vote, Paltin pleaded with the council to keep Lipoa Point the way it was.
" If the Maui County General Plan is a comprehensive blueprint for the physical, economic, environmental development and cultural identity of the county then Lipoa point MUST be left in preservation as indicated by the professional planners and the undeveloped 220+ acres mauka of Lipoa MUST be included in that designation as supported by the community," she said, according to the written copy of her testimony she provided to MauiTime. "The corporation asks the council to consider Lipoa point as collateral for it's [sic] 1,600 pensioners, we ask the council to consider everyone, na keiki o ka aina, visitors, residents and future generations, what will happen to Lipoa point if the corporation defaults on its loan? Why have negotiations stalled? It is not because the community is not committed."
Reached a day after the vote, Couch said there was still a chance to save the point.
"My thought was that they have plenty of land, and not just this," Couch said a day after the vote, acknowledging the time already spent on preserving the land and the huge number of residents who want to see the land stay the way it is. "There's a ring around the shoreline that's still in preservation."
Couch added that while reverting the entire point to preserved status wasn't likely, it was still possible for the county to acquire the land. "Then it [last night's vote] would be a moot point," Couch said, though he admitted that the acquisition process–which has been ongoing for some years–"is in limbo." He added that he would try to revive the acquisition process.
In case you were wondering, Victorino, Baisa and Couch are all running in contested races for reelection. White, Cochran and Carroll are also running but have no challengers. Mateo and Pontanilla are termed out, but Pontanilla is running against Gil Keith-Agaran for the 9th District state House seat.
BUT CANE SMOKE MAKES HAZE, TOO...
How's this for some shocking news. According to an Aug. 6, 2012 statement sent out by Earthjustice, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data "shows that visibility is impaired 'virtually all the time at most national parks and wilderness areas.'" Specifically, the environmental legal organization notes, "Visibility in the western United States is about 60–100 miles, or half to two-thirds what it would be without human-caused air pollution... [while] in the eastern United States, the average visual range is less than 20 miles, or approximately one-fifth of the visibility range under natural conditions."
Pretty depressing, don't you think? Earthjustice thinks so, which is why they just filed suit on behalf of the Sierra Club and the National Parks Conservation Association against the EPA.
"The groups are challenging a recent EPA rule that allows aging coal plants to avoid installing up-to-date emission controls if they are located in states that participate in an emissions trading program," stated the EarthJustice press release. Earthjustice Coal Program Director Abigail Dillen added in the news release that "Americans deserve to breathe clean air and actually see the magnificent views when they visit our National Parks."
If all this sounds a bit like old news, it's because, at least on Maui, it is. The Valley Isle may not have any coal-fired power plants, but we do have sugarcane burns and the Pu'unene sugar mill, all of which both puts out noxious smoke and were recently determined by the EPA to NOT be a cause of the haze that afflicts Haleakala National Park.
Though the EPA determined during a study this spring that agricultural burning and oil combustion contribute to about 10 percent of the "visibility degradation" at a monitoring site just outside the park, the agency also concluded that "there is no evidence of agricultural burning contributing to haze at [the park itself]." For that reason, the EPA proposed no new controls on cane burning, reported The Maui News on June 8, 2012.
For someone like Irene Bowie, Maui Tomorrow's executive director, this was too much. "We don't doubt that a major contributor to visibility impairment at Haleakala is vog, laden with sulfates and other pollutants brought by Kona winds," she wrote to the EPA, according to The Maui News. "[B]ut there is no doubt that, as the National Park Service has clearly stated, 'sugar cane processing facilities and field burning can affect air quality and visibility.'"
If groups like Earthjustice are having to sue to get the EPA to restrict filthy coal-burning plants, what chance do we have out here with cane-burning?
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