Maui aims forBy Gary T. Kubota
longer runway but
no alien invasion
WAILUKU -- One of Maui's largest private employers says extending Kahului Airport's runway is vital to the company's future.
Maui Pineapple Co., which employs 1,000 people, says it would be able to send fresh fruit on direct flights to mainland cities.
"We're having trouble getting our product to the mainland market," said Vice President L. Doug MacCluer. "We could double our capacity if we had more runway."
Hearings are scheduled for today and tomorrow on Maui about the planned airport expansion, a proposal that has been in development for 13 years and has been opposed by several environmental and native Hawaiian groups.
About $150 million has been appropriated by the state for the proposed expansion, which includes a cargo facility to limit the introduction of alien species.
The Maui Visitors Bureau has estimated the number of Japanese visitors to the Valley Isle could increase by 10 percent with direct international flights.
State airports Administrator Jerry Matsuda says the state is doing everything it can to resolve the problem of alien species being introduced to the islands by airline flights.
Matsuda said officials are conducting a risk analysis of the problem and are developing a plan for limiting such introductions.
Environmentalists say the state isn't talking with them about the problem, but they're willing to sit down to resolve it without going through administrative hearings.
"It's time to bring people together," said Lucienne de Naie of Maui's Sierra Club. De Naie said members feel the expansion plan has been poorly thought out and are skeptical of the state's ability to control alien species.
Dana Naone Hall, representing the native Hawaiian group Hui Alanui O Makena, said the state should examine whether the scale of the proposed improvements is proper for Maui.
"Do we need five international airports in the state of Hawaii?" Hall asked.