PRESS RELEASE -- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ka`u Preservation 808-928-8144
DEADLINE EXTENDED TO DEC. 22 FOR PUBLIC COMMENTS ON PUNALU`U DEVELOPMENT DEIS
CULTURAL AND SCIENTIFIC EXPERTS AGREE:
SEA MOUNTAIN V DEVELOPMENT DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL
IMPACT STATEMENT IS FLAWED AND MISLEADING
Nov., 21st, 2006
Cultural and Scientific experts from across the state and the country have reviewed the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Sea Mountain V Housing Development at Punalu`u that threatens major cultural sites and critical habitat in one of the largest wilderness areas in the state. According to David Kimo Frankel, Staff Attorney for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, who is representing Ka`u Preservation, “the DEIS is filled with meaningless buzzwords, insufficient detail, empty promises, shoddy analysis, unsupported conclusions, errors and omissions.”
According to the DEIS, The Sea Mountain V Development would turn one of the last undeveloped areas in Hawai`i into a 430 acre massive construction site for twenty years in order to build 1500 luxury homes, 2 acres of retail space and 2 high-end resorts. While the developer is promising that the development would bring jobs to the rural district of Ka`u, Pat Blew, who represents Sea Mountain V, admits that the development would be built with or without the resorts and retail space which is where most of the jobs would come from.
According to Frankel, “The Hawai`i County Planning Department should not accept a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) that resembles anything like this document. The county has a responsibility pursuant to both HRS chapter 343 and the public trust doctrine to ensure that it thoroughly and completely assesses the impacts of projects requiring county approval. The DEIS is so deficient that the county should require that the applicant re-write the DEIS and put the DEIS out for public comment once again. The applicant has simply refused to address many of the questions asked by Ka`u Preservation and many other consulted parties.”
Dr. Peter Mills, Anthropology Department Chair and Associate Professor at the University of Hawaii – Hilo, slammed the developer’s impact study, stating, “Despite your profit incentives for developing a large-scale resort, it is most arrogant for the DEIS to suggest that the development would result in a probable positive impact on the history and culture of the area. The cultural center would be a token mitigation measure to lessen the adverse effects your project would cause to this highly significant traditional cultural property.”
The developer, Mr. Blew has also admitted to Ka`u Preservation that the promised “Cultural Center” will likely be built “somewhere” offsite and funding for the Center is not guaranteed. According to Blew, “there is not enough space on the 430 acre development site for a Cultural Center.”
Dr. Mills and other cultural experts are concerned that the housing development threatens invaluable cultural artifacts and protected burials. According to Dr. Mills,
“If we are to learn from the history of large development projects in rural areas of the state, one lesson should be that it is in everyone’s best interest to intensify the scope of the archaeological inventory survey before any potential development begins. Geomorphological issues in the Punalu`u area include historical era tsunamis and the construction of golf-course greens (and other large scale earth-moving events), that most likely buried many significant sites within the 430-acre project area.”
According to Jason P. Turner, Assistant Professor of the Department of Marine Science at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, “I have major concerns with the DEIS written by consultants Group 70 International, Inc. including flaws in survey techniques, unsupported conclusions, and incorrectly stated facts pertaining to the ecology of marine ecosystems. It is very disconcerting that there is no mention of nesting hawksbill sea turtles here, nor do there appear to be any plans to account for their presence. The fact that the EIS does not acknowledge a Federally Protected Endangered Species is inexcusable and shows that lack of scientific credibility that went into this DEIS.”
Pueo McGuire-Turcotte, who was born and raised in Ka`u and is now a student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, states, “If you allow this development, you are contributing to the slow process of extinction the Hawaiians are facing. According to anthropologists, a culture dies when their language and their ability to practice their culture are gone. This is another example of how this is happening, the children of Ka'u will no longer know Punalu'u as one of the most sacred areas in the State.”
Pele Hanoa, President of Ka`u Preservation and a property owner at Punalu`u since 1852,
stated in her comments that, “Punalu`u’s sweeping mountains, beautiful coastal vistas, fragile historical and archaeological sites (state’s largest surviving heiau complex), easily accessible swimming area, and fine net throwing site should make it unthinkable that this truly unique remnant of old Hawaii be allowed to degenerate into an appalling Waikiki-style mini city. While the population is increasing, the beaches are not. As a result, these irreplaceable areas are being developed instead of being preserved. I feel that it is something that cannot take place in Ka’u.”
The pubic is encouraged to make comments on the Sea Mountain V Development at Punalu`u. The DEIS can be downloaded from the website: www.savepunaluu.org. All
comments must be postmarked by Dec. 22. 2006 and mailed to the following: 1. Chris Yuen, Hawaii County Planning Dept., 101 Pauahi St., Ste. 3 Hilo, HI 96720 2. Sea Mountain Five, 6 Marin Lane, Honolulu, HI 96817 3. Office of Environmental Quality Control 235 S. Beretania St., Suite 702 Honolulu, Hawaii 96813 4. Group 70 International, Inc. 925 Bethel St., 5th Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813.
For more information on Ka`u Preservation’s effort to preserve the sacred lands of Ka`u, go to: www.kaupreservation.org.