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Ruling keeps Leeward Oahu landfill open


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POSTED: Saturday, August 01, 2009

The Waimanalo Gulch landfill will be allowed to expand and remain open until full, under the condition that the city start searching for a new landfill site by November 2010.

Conditions are being stipulated by the city Planning Commission, which approved a new special use permit for the landfill yesterday.

The commission says it may still amend or revoke the permit if it feels insufficient progress is being made toward finding a new site.

“;I think it's pretty obvious we need a landfill on this island for us to move forward,”; said Commissioner Kerry M. Komatsubara, who drafted the commission's ruling. “;It would not be in the community's best interest to close this landfill before we find another.”;

The city will be required to make annual progress reports. Additional conditions, such as requiring the city to consider locations outside the Waianae Coast, may be added at the commission's discretion.

“;What this proposal does is says (to the city), 'You can keep it open ... but you have an obligation, starting next year, to start finding a new site,'”; Komatsubara said.

The matter now goes to the state Land Use Commission, which has 45 days to issue a final decision. The Planning Commission's decision is not binding. Last year—when facing a May 1, 2008, deadline to close the landfill—the Planning Commission recommended a two-year extension, which was trimmed to 18 months by the state agency.

The landfill is scheduled to close Nov. 1, but the city is seeking to expand and extend its life 15 years, arguing a solid-waste site is needed while other options such as expansion of the HPOWER waste-to-energy plant, islandwide recycling and trash shipping are developed and put in place.

“;We understand no one wants a landfill in their back yard, but it is a necessity,”; Tim Steinberger, city director of environmental services, said in a statement released by his office. “;The decision by the commissioners reaffirms the need for a municipal solid waste landfill on Oahu.”;

Opponents of the landfill have argued the site should be closed, as previous administrations have promised.

The permit application was contested by state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa and state Rep. Maile Shimabukuro, who represent the district, on behalf of the Ko Olina Community Association.

“;I was surprised at the fact that they did not put in a time limit,”; Hanabusa said. “;I think if there's anything that history has shown us is that the city is not going to do anything until there's a deadline.”;