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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Turtle Bay plans need a supplemental EIS

By Gil Riviere

Turtle Bay officials gave a presentation before the Ko'olauloa Neighborhood Board and the public in April. North Shore residents have gone to court to seek an update of the 20-year-old environmental impact statement.

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Intuitively, logically, ethically and responsibly, everyone knows that a supplemental environmental impact statement should be prepared before the developers at Turtle Bay Resort are allowed to proceed. We believe the courts will add "legally" to this list of reasons.

According to Kuilima Resort Co., the folks who want to expand Turtle Bay Resort on O'ahu's North Shore from 500 to 4,000 hotel and condo units, an environmental impact statement completed in 1985 is as valid today as it may have been 21 years ago.

Inconveniently for the developers, virtually nobody has come out in support of the project as proposed, while the list of opponents is overwhelming.

Gov. Linda Lingle spoke at the Hawai'i Republican Party Convention in strong support of "Resolution: Re-evaluation of the Kuilima Expansion Project," which was approved by the Republican Party.

Former Gov. George Ariyoshi wrote in a Hawai'i Business Magazine article, "In my view, we had best do what we can to preserve the rural character of the Windward side. Everyone seems to value it. People do want the country to be truly country."

The state Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 131, "Calling for Rigorous Reexamination of the Development Expansion Plan at Turtle Bay Resort Due to the Passage of Time and Changed Conditions of the North Shore." The state House moved a similar resolution.

Honolulu City Council Chairman Donovan Dela Cruz submitted two resolutions to try to resolve the matter, but the corporation counsel advised against any action or comment from all city officials, so the resolutions are indefinitely deferred.

A grass-roots organization called Defend O'ahu Coalition recently delivered to Mayor Mufi Hannemann's office a petition from 5,000 individuals who oppose the expansion plans.

Keep the North Shore Country filed legal action to require the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting to order an SEIS. Sierra Club's Hawai'i chapter joined in our legal action, which has subsequently been consolidated by the court with a similar action by UNITE HERE Local 5.

The State of Hawai'i Environmental Council, which is responsible for promulgating the state's environmental review rules, voted unanimously to ask the Department of Planning and Permitting why the proposed development did not have a supplemental EIS. The Council even identified specific rules that trigger the need for an SEIS. The Department of Planning and Permitting did not answer, on advice from corporation counsel.

Although the Department of Planning and Permitting refuses to address the question of the SEIS, they continue to process the permit application and might be preparing to issue preliminary subdivision approval. The developer might then herald preliminary subdivision approval as proof that they were right all along, and that the matter is closed. This would be inaccurate because the legal proceedings will not be affected.

Since we believe that the courts will compel the Department of Planning and Permitting to order an SEIS, we also believe that the department would compound the problem by issuing preliminary subdivision approval before the courts have a chance to hear the case. Indeed, they should have already required an SEIS as part of the subdivision/shoreline management area permit review process.

Our lawsuit very reasonably calls for an SEIS and nothing more. After so many years of inactivity on a 20-year old plan, the developer and the Department of Planning and Permitting should slow down, heed the will of the public and do what everyone knows they should do: prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement.

Gil Riviere is president of Keep the North Shore Country.