Ewa Beach developer faces new fight
Haseko's storm runoff system, approved by the Council, alarms seaweed devotees
A planned storm drainage system in Ewa Beach could further jeopardize the remaining limu along the shore, say opponents who are concerned about the declining seaweed crop.
At issue is a special management area permit and shoreline setback variance for Haseko Inc. granted by unanimous City Council vote yesterday. Under the plan, Haseko will make $2.1 million in drainage improvements at Papipi Road. The plan is the result of a separate dispute between the developer and Ewa Beach residents.
Limu lover Henry Chang Wo said the future of Hawaii's already declining seaweed could be harmed further by the drainage project.
"This area has one of the few exposed reefs in Ewa Beach. Whatever comes out of this runoff will smother the reef, and that is where your sea life begins," said Chang Wo, one of the founders of the Ewa Beach Limu Project. "When you smother a reef, you smother it forever."
Other Ewa Beach residents said the drainage project would alleviate problems associated with heavy rains.
"Without the drainage, the whole area will be flooded when a big storm comes," said resident Mary Serrao.
In 2004, community concerns over Haseko's plan to build an 18-foot-high wall along Papipi Road led to a lawsuit to stop construction of the wall, which divided the older Ewa Beach community from Haseko's upscale development.
A judge ordered residents and the developer to enter into mediation, which resulted in a modified, smaller wall.
But the mediation had other consequences.
Haseko agreed to include a 75-foot outlet to channel storm runoff into the ocean near Oneula Beach Park, where the Limu Project has focused its efforts to rehabilitate the seaweed. They group says runoff diverted to the ocean will hurt the surrounding ecosystem, and a way of life will be lost.
"When the reefs die, the waves die also. ... When the limu gone, the fish don't come. When the fish don't come, we not going be there," resident Doug Correa said.
The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation argued that the city must withhold approval because there is insufficient data to determine the impact on limu and native Hawaiian gathering rights. Its attorney, Kathryn Lehua Opedal, said no decision has been made on whether to challenge the Council's decision.
City officials disagree with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation.
"There's no impact to the limu and of course no impact to the gathering ... the ability to go gather the limu," said Department of Planning and Permitting Deputy Director David Tanoue.
Haseko's representative, Sharene Saito Tam, told the Council the developer would continue to test the water quality.
"It should be noted that the monitoring program that we have was approved by the state Department of Health and the Army Corps of Engineers," Saito Tam said. "They have never raised any questions or issues with the method of collections or with the results."
Councilman Todd Apo said he believes safeguards are in place to protect the environment while the much-needed drainage system is built.