Mauka to Makai

Mauka to Makai
At TBR: Hawaiian Galinule (moorhen), 500 remaining (L); Hawaiian Monk Seal, 1,000 remaining (R)
Image: L: Nate Yuen; R: Sean Davey

Native species are threatened by expansion plans

Mauka to Makai / The Turtle Bay Resort (TBR), accepting public comments on new development plans in its draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) until Jan. 18, says it wants to enhance and protect the environment. In truth, the SEIS is inadequate and inaccurate with regard to eco-impacts.

One hundred acres of Punaho’olapa Marsh at TBR is classified as supporting habitat for endangered Hawaiian Stilts, Moorhens, Coots and Ducks. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) 2012 Recovery Plan for these four endangered waterbirds states that any further development at Turtle Bay would impact their recovery.

The SEIS claims that the TBR’s property does not abut critical habitat under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). Actually, TBR lies adjacent to the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, designated critical habitat for the waterbirds above.

The SEIS biological surveys indicate no Hawaiian Owls (Pueo) or Hawaiian Hoary Bats (both protected) were found. But observations were not conducted when these animals are most active, and adjacent properties (First Wind and James Campbell NWR) have documented the presence of both, along with petrels, shearwaters, ospreys and peregrine falcons.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is considering a designation of critical habitat for Hawaiian Monk Seals in this area, where they pup, forage, and haul out onto land. Four Monk Seals frequent parts of the coastline currently slated for “Resort Residential” housing. NOAA recommends minimizing interactions between seals and people; activity that disturbs the seals is a form of “take” under the ESA. All that TBR offers in mitigation that is an “Educational Program” implemented by volunteers.

Fewer than 10 pages in the 1,635 page SEIS are devoted to Hawaiian Monk Seals and Green Sea Turtles, despite the Hawaii Supreme Court’s 2010 directive that TBR address environmental changes since the 1980s, particularly the increased presence of these two species.

No freshwater aquatic surveys or invertebrate surveys were conducted. But endangered Coastal Damselflies and endemic Kamehameha Butterflies are observed on the property.

The SEIS states that no endangered plant species was found. In reality, ohai grows here and it is on the Endangered Species List. If it has been overlooked, what others may remain overlooked?

Except for rodent control around buildings, there is no predator control program on the property and none is proposed for mongoose, feral cats and dogs.

Grubbing, grading and structural fill will impact the natural structure of the wetland. No mention is made of brine ponds included in past surveys near Kawela and Kahuku Points. The marsh was 30 acres larger in the 1980s. The Resort proposes to use the non-potable water from a spring near the marsh for irrigation. How this will affect the marsh is not addressed, nor is the spill, last August, of 23,000 gallons of sewage into Turtle Bay, resulting in a Department of Health warning.

The Resort congratulates itself for building setbacks from the shoreline greater than required by law. Actually, it is obliged to do so because of the flooding and inundation risks. TBR also says it cannot build inland because ironwood trees block the view of the ocean. Why not remove these non-native trees and restore the dunes, overgrown after 30 years of neglect?

The Proposed Action gives Kahuku Point and Hanakailio beach, with their rare and fragile dune ecosystems, to the City and County for a park. In the Conservation Partner Alternative, TBR wants compensation in the order of tens, or hundreds of millions of dollars, for not developing.

Expansion of the current footprint of the TBR is untenable with the protected animal and plant species on SEIS lands. We are all stakeholders. Submit questions and comments to [email: drew], [email: leesichter], [email: ccComments].