Operator cites shortage of construction materials
Grace Pacific is sending out an SOS to the construction industry over the delays in gettting permits to expand and extend the operational life of Makakilo Quarry.
While the company has six to eight years left of grade B aggregate in its current quarry pit, it needs grade A aggregate to complete many of its construction commitments on the island, said Bob Creps, a senior vice president at Grace Pacific.
Without Makakilo Quarry, Oahu's two remaining quarries will be unable to meet demand, and aggregate will need to be imported at two to four times the cost of local aggregate, said Hawaii's harbor infrastructure also is ill-equipped to receive the aggregate in the scale and volume necessary to replace the annual supply from Makakilo Quarry, Creps said.
"We exhausted most of the supply of our grade A aggregate last month," said Jay Obrey, director of quarry and asphalt operations for Makakilo Quarry. "Our costs and costs for our future customers are already rising."
Since the construction industry needs aggregate to build, a shortage could slow down progress, said Lance Wilhelm, senior vice president and Hawaii area manager for Kiewit Construction.
"People have a hard time making the connection between the cost of their house and aggregate, but we use aggregate in the concrete slabs for houses," Wilhem said.
Indeed, aggregate plays a critical role in everyday life in the U.S., said Christopher M. Hopkins, senior vice president for the Saint Consulting Group, an international land-use political consulting firm, which has worked on projects in 44 states and several countries.
"The average house has 400 tons of aggregate and there's 39,000 tons in the average mile of road," Hopkins said.
While citizens in the surrounding neighborhoods have asked Grace Pacific to relocate its quarry to a less populous region, the company has said that there are no other viable quarrying sites on Oahu.
"We've conducted our own research and the results clearly indicate that there are no significant basalt deposit sites suitable for quarrying," Creps said.
Others dispute that. Opponents of the proposed quarry expansion have argued there are enough quarry reserves, and that Oahu still has plenty of open lands to peruse for new locations.
"There is a whole mountain range to search for another site," said Mark Schnabel, who is employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and lives in the Villages of Kapolei.
"I fully understand the importance of aggregate for construction and the importance of smart, planned development," Schnabel said. "But Grace Pacific has enjoyed 35 years of production at its current site but now it doesn't make sense to continue or expand it due to urban housing, school, recreation, and business development in the area."
However, aggregate is not something that can be found everywhere, Hopkins said.
"Science has improved, but still the rock is where it is," Hopkins said, adding that they should have a neutral geologist do an independent assessment.
And, industry folks have said that the problem could be more complicated than just identifying a site. Even if a new site could be found, Wilhelm said that historically it has been difficult to obtain permits to open quarries on Oahu.
"Just to expand a quarry you get opposition, but to open a new quarry in virgin territory gets lots of opposition," he said.
In the late 1990s, Ameron Hawaii met with community resistance when they tried to get a new quarry approved on the North Shore, said John DeLong, president of Hawaiian Cement.
"They ran into a buzz saw," he said. "It would be very unlikely that another quarry site would ever be approved on Oahu."