Maui runoff to sea being investigated
By Christie Wilson
Neighbor Island Editor
WAILUKU, Maui State and county officials are investigating whether muddy runoff from a luxury housing project dirtied the ocean off Palauea Beach in Wailea this week.
Everett Dowling, developer of the One Palauea Bay project, said yesterday that the storm runoff came down a natural drainageway from higher up the slopes of Haleakala and wasn't from the shoreline construction site. The 44-acre project includes 17 homes and homesites priced at $1.4 million and up.
The Sierra Club's Hawai'i Chapter said the developer was to blame for a muddy stream that flowed down the drainageway adjacent to the project and emptied into the ocean.
Mike Tsuji, enforcement section supervisor at the Department of Health's Clean Water Branch, said he was waiting for a staff report before deciding whether any action is warranted.
County Public Works Director Gil Agaran said his staff is investigating the runoff, as well as reports of runoff into the ocean at Kalepolepo in Kihei and from Dowling's Kulamalu subdivision in Upcountry Maui.
In response to the Sierra Club's complaints, Dowling and site work contractor Stephen Goodfellow hired a helicopter yesterday to follow the gulch upstream and said they saw muddy runoff and debris well above the construction site.
The Sierra Club didn't do its homework in checking out the runoff report, Dowling said, and "is using the runoff issue as a tactic to oppose or stall construction projects."
Sierra Club officials said that no one from the organization visited the Palauea site this week, when the runoff occurred, and that they were basing their allegations on photos taken by a Maui resident.
One of the photos shows heavy equipment atop a dirt bank alongside rushing water in drainageway.
Sierra Club official Laura Hokunani Edmunds said that even if the runoff originated upslope, One Palauea Bay contributed to the problem by not containing the dirt on its site.
Dowling said that a comprehensive, county-approved erosion control plan was in place before this week's heavy rains, but that it's possible some mud from his project washed into the drainageway.
Edmunds said that contributing even small amount of material to the runoff would be a violation of federal clean water regulations.
Edmunds is coordinator of the Sierra Club's Blue Water Campaign, launched this year to protect coastal waters from runoff and pollution caused by development.
In addition to the 17 homesites, the 44-acre One Palauea Bay site contains a heiau and other significant ancient Hawaiian sites. Dowling, a former University of Hawai'i regent, and Goodfellow donated almost half the property to UH as an archaeological preserve for research and education.
Reach Christie Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (808) 244-4880.