Company representatives told the state Water Resource Management Commission yesterday that the proposed 1,400-slip marina - about twice the size of the Ala Wai facility - would diversify an economy hit by sugar and military closures, and could attract world-class yacht races while offering younger people diversions from drugs and crime.
"It finally appears that this vision may be more than a pipe dream, that it may actually become a reality in our lifetime," said attorney Alan M. Oshima, asking for a water-use permit the company needs before it can start dredging.
But Paul Achitoff, a lawyer for the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, urged commission members not to be swayed by Haseko's attempts to "dazzle and distract."
He said Haseko cannot meet strict permit requirements under the state's water code and said the marina could affect the quality of water drawn from an already overburdened Ewa caprock aquifer.
The comments were made as the commission opened a contested-case hearing on the issue at the Kalanimoku Building. It is scheduled to last at least through the week and resume briefly next month, with a decision expected early next year.
The marina is part of Haseko's Ewa Marina Community Development project, a 1,100-acre development that includes a maritime commercial center, a 27-hole golf course and 4,850 condominium units, single-family homes and townhouses ranging from in price from luxury to affordable.
The company says it has all major permits needed to proceed with the project except for the water-use permit.
Haseko hopes to begin work next year, with completion taking 15 to 20 years.
Commissioners ordered the hearing because of questions about the marina's effect on the aquifer - a 29-square-mile, wedge-shaped layer of porous limestone through which nonpotable water seeps.
Haseko says its experts feel the impact will be "minimal," and dismisses arguments that excavation will puncture the caprock and increase the flow of brackish water into the ocean.
In the worst-case scenario, two nearby golf courses that use the water could be affected, it says.
The defense fund, though, criticizes the company's lack of firm statistics, and is worried any depletion will further stress the aquifer as development heads in the Ewa direction.
The aquifer was primarily fed by Oahu Sugar Co. irrigation water percolating into the ground, a source that vanished when the company closed last year.
The city now is planning to put treated waste water into the aquifer as a way to replenish it.
The defense fund is representing the Save Ewa Beach Ohana, Ka Lahui Hawaii, Life of the Land, Save our Surf and the Sierra Club.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs also is contesting the permit, arguing in part that the marina will affect traditional shoreline activities of native Hawaiians.