Res­i­dents say Kealakekua environmental re­port lack­ing

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By CAMERON MICULKA West Hawaii Today

KAILUA-KONA — Sev­eral res­i­dents who spoke out about a draft environmental im­pact state­ment con­nected to a master plan at Kealakekua Bay State His­tor­i­cal Park said many of the doc­u­ment’s el­e­ments don’t pass muster.

“If I turned this in to my school, they would have given me an ‘in­com­plete,’” said Tony Cas­ci­ato, sum­ming up the bi­o­log­i­cal re­source sur­vey re­port, which as­sessed plants and an­i­mals at the park site.

Cas­ci­ato ref­er­enced the en­dan­gered species in the bay area, such as the Hawai­ian hoary bat. The sur­vey says the chances of any ad­verse im­pacts to bats “are likely small,” but, Cas­ci­ato noted, the re­sources sur­vey ex­plic­itly states that “sur­veys for Hawai­ian hoary bats were not con­ducted.”

And while he agreed with plans to re­store na­tive habi­tats and con­trol in­va­sive species, he said, the means to ac­com­plish those ends

must be made clear.

Cas­ci­ato was one of about five dozen peo­ple to at­tend a pub­lic com­ment meet­ing for the draft environmental im­pact state­ment con­nected to the master plan for Kealakekua Bay State His­tor­i­cal Park, a South Kona site the state Depart­ment of Land and Nat­u­ral Re­sources and the Di­vi­sion of State Parks have been try­ing to de­velop for decades.

Curt Cot­trell, ad­min­is­tra­tor for the Di­vi­sion of State Parks, said he wanted at­ten­dees to come away with some clo­sure on the plan­ning process that in­volves what he said is one of the most iconic parks in the state cul­tur­ally and for nat­u­ral re­sources.

So­cial me­dia, he said, is driv­ing more and more vis­i­tors to the area, so it’s cru­cial to de­velop a way to mit­i­gate the im­pact of peo­ple and en­sure ad­e­quate in­fra­struc­ture.

“I don’t think we can turn the clock back, but I think we need to es­tab­lish a fil­ter of the tourists that’s bal­anced with the community val­ues of this his­toric place,” he said. “We want to keep it as it is now, but with a lit­tle bit bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture.”

The draft doc­u­ment, put to­gether by Belt Collins Hawaii LLC, in­cludes sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions in­tended to in­crease ac­cess and fa­cil­i­ties as well as im­prove safety all while pre­serv­ing and main­tain­ing the area’s nat­u­ral and cul­tural re­sources.

Those ini­tial costs would in­clude a new en­try, park­ing lot and in­ter­pre­tive cen­ter at the park’s Napoopoo sec­tion as well as a wa­ter­less toi­let, sig­nage, shel­ter and a land­ing zone at Kaawaloa.

Cap­i­tal im­prove­ments would come with a price tag of less than $2.4 mil­lion, with an­nual op­er­a­tional costs around half a mil­lion dol­lars once the full plan is in place.

One of the key el­e­ments, Cot­trell said, will be man­ag­ing wa­ter­craft in the bay, adding that ef­fort will prob­a­bly in­volve part­ner­ing with some en­tity at Napoopoo land­ing.

“We’re try­ing to make Kealakekua Bay more re­silient to use, but not in­crease it,” he said. “And do a bet­ter job of just telling the story.”

But from bi­o­log­i­cal re­sources to cul­tural im­pact and traf­fic anal­y­sis, many who tes­ti­fied on the draft said, it just isn’t good enough.

Con­all Ka­hakaio Raven­scraft tes­ti­fied about the breadth of cul­tural prac­tices per­pet­u­ated in the area near Kealakekua Bay and well be­yond the park’s bound­aries — prac­tices, he said, that aren’t ad­e­quately noted and ex­plored in the cul­tural im­pact assess­ment por­tion of the draft environmental im­pact state­ment.

“Right now, the way these ma­te­ri­als are pre­sented to us, it looks like the state of Hawaii Depart­ment of Land and Nat­u­ral Re­sources Di­vi­sion of State Parks fails to ac­knowl­edge the very ex­is­tence of these sto­ries and these life­styles, as if to say that we don’t even ex­ist,” he said. “We do ex­ist. We’re here.”

Raven­scraft also com­mented on in­ac­cu­ra­cies oth­ers had iden­ti­fied in the draft environmental im­pact state­ment, say­ing that those er­rors “cre­ates a level of mis­trust” when the doc­u­ment in­cludes wrong in­for­ma­tion.

“So clearly, more work needs to be done there,” he said.

Some at­ten­dees called on a cul­tural ad­vi­sory group to be or­ga­nized im­me­di­ately.

The draft environmental im­pact state­ment says such a group “should be es­tab­lished be­fore any more ef­fort be­ing put into a master plan.”

Robert Flatt, who pro­vided West Hawaii Today with testimony he sub­mit­ted in ad­vance to the gov­er­nor, said the draft state­ment was “800 pages of lip­stick on a pig.”

Much of Flatt’s crit­i­cism of the pro­posal is di­rected at the doc­u­ment’s trans­porta­tion im­pact anal­y­sis and pro­posed so­lu­tions to po­ten­tial im­pacts to traf­fic in the area.

Flatt, for ex­am­ple, chal­lenged the doc­u­ment’s as­sump­tion of how many vis­i­tors would get to the park via Napoopoo Road as op­posed to Pu­uhonua Road.

The trans­porta­tion im­pact anal­y­sis es­ti­mates the project will gen­er­ate 28 new week­day trips dur­ing peak hours and 36 new trips dur­ing Satur­day peak hours. And the vast ma­jor­ity of traf­fic the project gen­er­ates, the doc­u­ment ex­pects, would come to and leave the site via the in­ter­sec­tion of Ma­mala­hoa High­way and Napoopoo Road.

It’s likely, the doc­u­ment said, that “a few” of the trips, es­ti­mated at 15 per­cent, would come from or go to Pu­uhonua Road, which runs be­tween the Kealakekua Bay site and Pu­uhonua o Honau­nau Na­tional His­tor­i­cal Park. The rest are ex­pected to use Napoopoo Road to ac­cess the state park.

Flatt said that as­sump­tion “is prob­a­bly wrong.”

“It is rea­son­able to as­sume that vis­i­tors to one his­tor­i­cal park will also visit an­other his­tor­i­cal park 4 miles away,” he said.

The pub­lic com­ment pe­riod for the draft environmental im­pact state­ment ends April 23.

A PDF of the doc­u­ment is avail­able at https://bit.ly/2pHsEtp.

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