Ho'opili project would leave ample farm land available


POSTED: Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kioni Dudley's recent commentary, “;Bill saving Oahu's precious farmland needs public support”; (Star-Bulletin, Island Commentary, April 15) utilizes House Bill 2290 as a tool to potentially stop the development of the future Ho'opili community in West Oahu.

As a longtime Ewa Beach resident and as a former Oahu Sugar Co. employee, I know the area well and I know firsthand the conditions of the land and soil at the proposed Ho'opili site.

When the city created the Ewa Development Plan, they indicated where urban growth should occur and, equally important, where growth should not take place, creating the Urban Growth Boundary.

Lands located outside of the Urban Growth Boundary are designated agricultural lands that should be preserved. The land the Ho'opili community will be on is well within the Urban Growth Boundary.

When the decision was made to urbanize certain areas on the Ewa Plain — including the city of Kapolei, the University of Hawaii-West Oahu, the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, the newly opened Kualaka'i Parkway and other areas — state and county officials knew of their high agronomic quality.

Similarly, city officials were fully aware of the high quality of the Ho'opili land when they included the land within the Urban Growth Boundary.

The community needs to understand the bigger picture when discussing Ho'opili. While the Ho'opili project will result in a direct loss of 1,497 acres of agricultural land currently being leased for various agricultural operations, this amounts to less than 1 percent of the approximately 160,000 acres of agricultural land that remains available throughout the state of Hawaii.

Ample agricultural land is available to accommodate the projected growth of diversified agriculture on Oahu, such as Central Oahu and the North Shore, and elsewhere in the state. Not to mention, of the approximately 128,000 acres of agricultural lands on Oahu, roughly 40,000 acres have been classified as A, B or Prime, and nearly all of these lands are outside of the Urban Growth Boundary. Additionally, of the 40,000 acres of land that are rated A, B or Prime, nearly 10,000 acres is currently not in production.

Historically, the land the proposed Ho'opili community will be on was originally cultivated in sugar cane from the late 1800s to 1995. Contrary to what some may believe, Ho'opili lands are not the most productive lands on Oahu. When I was working at the Oahu Sugar Co., certain parts of the Ho'opili land were pure coral. Because the production yields for sugar cane were so low in these areas, the company had to truck in soil from other parts of the island to increase production.

With nearly three decades of experience at Oahu Sugar Co., I have a strong history of supporting the preservation of agricultural lands. However, I believe it is critical to have a plan that will improve our community.

The Ewa Development Plan designates certain areas for development, while preserving other areas for agriculture. It does not impede progress; rather, it ensures a well-planned future for Hawaii and its people.

While the intent of HB 2290 is noble, it is misplaced. Dr. Dudley is using the bill as a vehicle to stop development and the future Ho'opili community in West Oahu, not to protect agricultural land.

I encourage people to get the facts and find out more about HB 2290.

As a Ho'opili Community Task Force member for the past five years, I know and understand what Ho'opili will eventually offer to local residents.

I feel Ho'opili is a great opportunity for current and future residents of Hawaii, but we all need to make it our responsibility to be educated on the issues and know the facts.


Rodolfo Ramos has been an Ewa Beach resident for 38 years.