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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Runoff at North Shore project draws complaint

By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer

A state health official yesterday said lax construction controls at a North Shore development project may have contributed to runoff problems that turned the nearby surf a chocolate color during recent heavy rains.

The runoff from recently graded areas at the Kaunala subdivision could lead to warnings or a fine for the developer, said Mike Tsuji, enforcement section supervisor at the Department of Health's Clean Water Branch.

Developer D.G. "Andy" Anderson yesterday denied that his project was responsible for the runoff and said he was being personally targeted by the Sierra Club, which opposed the project in which 29 single-family homes are being built on a 19-acre site.

"I was in Kahala yesterday and the entire ocean was brown. Did I do that? The water was brown in Kahuku. I suppose I'm responsible for that, too," an angry Anderson said after the Sierra Club issued a news release and photos showing dirt and sediment flowing into the ocean near the Kaunala site.

Sierra Club Director Jeff Mikulina said developers are required by federal law to use the best available practices to prevent runoff from entering the ocean.

"Basically, there's no doubt the developer has violated the federal Clean Water Act," added Laura Hokunani Edmunds, coordinator for the Sierra Club's Blue Water Campaign, launched earlier this year to protect Hawai'i's coastal waters from runoff and pollution caused by development. She called runoff protections at the Kaunala site "flimsy."

"Intense rains during Hawai'i's winter season are expected, but developers are not taking adequate precautions," she said.

North Shore resident Shaunti Kiehl said last week she saw runoff from the project flow into ocean near the Velzyland surf spot and later saw work crews dig a pathway to let muddy water flow out of the construction area.

Tsuji said an inspection team yesterday found several problems at the construction site, including some runoff protection devices that appeared to be overwhelmed by recent rains.

The developer also started work before obtaining a permit for discharge of storm water and earlier had not installed proper storm drain protection devices, Tsuji said.

Anderson said the runoff was no worse than what has occurred naturally in the area during heavy rains for more than 50 years. "There are two rivers adjacent to my property that extend well up into the mountains. Whenever it rains heavy, the mud comes down from the mountains and into the sea," he said.

Anderson said the ground under his oceanside property is mostly sand, not dirt, and that more pollution comes from two smaller subdivisions on the mauka side of the highway, which are connected by storm drains to the new ones installed under the Kaunala property.

"What happened couldn't have been stopped," he said. "These people were against the project from the beginning and they were just waiting for the opportunity to lay one around my neck."

Mikulina said it's too soon to tell how much the runoff may have damaged the reef, but he said the problem may not be as severe as damage caused by the Hokuli'a project on the Big Island in 2000 and at Pila'a on Kaua'i in 2001.

The Health Department will prepare a written report and consult with the state Attorney General's Office on possible fines or other actions. Federal law provides for fines of up to $25,000 in the cases of the worst violations, he said.

Other storm damage

Police directed traffic yesterday morning around a fallen tree and other debris that had washed out onto Diamond Head Road on Monday night after heavy rains.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

In other rain woes, city officials said yesterday debris washed out onto Diamond Head Road more than once Monday night near the Diamond Head Lookout. The road was cleared during the night, and again yesterday.

Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said yesterday the state will look into extending the barriers near Makapu'u on the Kalaniana'ole Highway. There were two rockslides on the highway Monday night, one near Sandy Beach and the other near Sea Life Park.

On Kaua'i yesterday a 10- to 15-foot cliffside section of the Kalalau Trail was washed out by the weekend storms, and the 11-mile trail from Ke'e Beach to Kalalau Valley has been closed pending repair.

A Department of Land and Natural Resources crew inspected the trail by helicopter and found the washout in Pohakuao Valley, between the 7- and 8-mile markers.

Campers in the valley were notified of the situation. The repairs were to start today and were expected to be complete by the weekend.

Reach Mike Leidemann at mleidemann@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5460.