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Hearing on proposed 306-unit condo will go beyond 2 days

Updated: 
April 19, 2017 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — A contested case hearing about a proposed 306-unit condominium in Kahaluu will continue beyond the originally planned two-day schedule to allow an area resident to question a groundwater expert about his research for the project. The next day for the ongoing hearing hasn’t been scheduled.

Tuesday marked the second day in which Kahaluu resident Simmy McMichael, who says the project threatens cultural resources and would strain local infrastructure, questioned some experts connected with the project about those concerns.

But among the witnesses speaking on water resources and road planning were others speaking out in defense of land that had been in the family for generations.

“My job first and foremost is to protect the cemetery,” said Hiram Rivera, speaking at the West Hawaii Civic Center.

Rivera is a member of the Kahulamu family, whose property neighbors the proposed project area. They also own a family cemetery in which they have buried several generations of family and continue to use to this day.

Though initially strongly opposed to the project, Rivera in March submitted an affidavit acknowledging the developer’s plan to create a buffer around the family cemetery. That buffer will prevent all development activities within the area 150 feet north of Kahulamu kuleana lands as well as prevent all development activities south of the properties.

Rivera said that if the buffer goes in place, “we will not agree, nor would we disagree to the development.”

That position contrasts with other members of the Kahulamu family who have spoken out in staunch opposition to any development in the area.

When McMichael questioned Rivera about his past opposition to the project, Rivera reaffirmed his commitment to protecting the cemetery.

“It’s up to all you folks to battle the part of building in Kahaluu,” he said. “My mission is to testify to protect our cemetery.”

Also testifying was Steven Dollar, who studied the marine environment in the area of the proposed project. His work is cited in the final environmental assessment for the development.

Dollar’s research focused specifically on ocean waters and the effects the outflow of groundwater has on the marine environment.

He said on Tuesday that there was a “very large input” of groundwater at the shoreline near Kahaluu Beach Park. He noted though that the groundwater incoming to the ocean is still “a drop in the bucket,” compared to the ocean.

Using some models to study the water chemistry, he said, he could note that nitrate levels — the main form of nitrogen found in groundwater — were slightly elevated over what would be expected from a strictly natural state without impact from land.

“And this is very common,” Dollar said. “I’ve done these kinds of surveys up and down the Kona coast for the last 40 years and this is a very standard result that we find.”

But McMichael repeatedly pushed Dollar on data about the impact to public health, data Dollar said his research isn’t designed to measure. Those parameters, such as bacteria levels, he said, weren’t part of the quality standards he used.

“So I do not have the data from my study to discuss the effects to the public health,” he said.

Similarly, Dollar said he couldn’t field questions about the impact to groundwater resources or the potential effects of fertilizers and pesticides, repeating that his role was strictly limited to the ocean marine environment, not groundwater.

“I’m not the hydrologist on this project and that’s hydrology questions you’re asking,” he told McMichael.

Instead, he said, those questions should be posed to hydrologist Tom Nance, who was unavailable and whose future availability hasn’t been determined.

Nance’s contributions to the environmental assessment are cited in the final version of the document, which states that “the project is not expected to have a negative impact on groundwater, coastal water resources or biology.”

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