EPA Weighs In On Maui Sewage Case

By Steve Holmes

In an amicus brief filed in the Federal Court of Appeals 9th Circuit, EPA lawyers supported the decision by Judge Susan Mollway. Maui County appealed after losing to community groups including Sierra Club.

In the brief, the EPA agreed that point source pollutants entering groundwater that is hydrologically connected to the ocean fall under the Clean Water Act. Such discharges require what is called an NPDES permit. Maui County used injection wells near the coast without this permit and polluted coastal waters.

This ruling, if upheld, will have statewide ramifications. At Kealakehe, for instance, Hawai‘i County has dumped treated sewage into a disposal pit for 20 years. They have no NPDES permit for this. USGS studies show the discharges are reaching the ocean and causing harm. Sierra Club has asked EPA to step in with enforcement given their official legal position. A meeting with a deputy regional administrator has been scheduled for September in Hawai‘i as a result.

Another longstanding violation of the Clean Water Act exists in Na‘alehu and Pahala, where gang cesspools are still being used even though 2005 marked the federal deadline for their closure. No land has been secured for a treatment plant and Hawai‘i County plans to dispose of effluent in a way that would again go into groundwater that flows to the ocean. Sierra Club wants EPA to establish a consent decree that would get Hawai‘i County to do water reuse instead.

Annual Meeting at Wailoa State Park

By Nelson Ho

The Annual Moku Loa Group Winter Party and Member’s Meeting will be held Friday, December 4 at 6:00 pm. Please bring potluck dishes for the event, which will be held at the Wailoa State Park Pavilion nearest the park entrance. GMO speaker invited. A silent auction will be held, so please bring outdoor oriented and lightly used items with an upset price. Come earlier if you want to help decorate; contact Debbie Ward for details.


Garage Sale

Moku Loa Group will hold a garage sale, tentatively set for Sunday, December 6 at Maku’u Farmers Market just past Ainaloa Subdivision on the way to Pahoa town. Contact Jim Buck, treasurer, for details, volunteering, and donations. Email: mohojimmy@gmail.com.

Hawaii County Goes Green with Biodiesel

By Steve Holmes

Using recycled vegetable oil and grease trap waste, Pacific Biodiesel has partnered with Hawaii County to use a 20% blend for its fleet vehicles including the Hele-On buses. With a new refinery in Keaau, Pacific Biodiesel will help create local jobs.

Biodiesel reduces fleet maintenance costs through increased lubricity and improves air emissions as well. The City & County of Honolulu completed a similar conversion over ten years ago with great success.

Recycling keeps these wastes out of landfills and sewer lines where they cause environmental problems. Pacific Biodiesel picks up the waste at restaurants, saving the businesses money and preventing illegal dumping into streams or vacant land.


Supreme Court Deliberates Mauna Kea Issues

By Debbie Ward

During the August 27 oral arguments regarding the Conservation District Use Permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope, justices rebuked DLNR for approving construction prior to holding a contested case hearing, and they questioned the board’s reasoning that the additional “incremental” damage could be mitigated, given that the FEIS found that “past construction of these observatories has had cumulative impacts that are substantial, significant and adverse.” The court has stayed the permit until its final order is issued.



Victory for Clean Water in Kona

By Steve Holmes

For 20 years, the Kealakehe Wastewater Treatment Plant in Kona has been dumping wastewater into a hole in the ground where it was carried into the Honokohau Small Boat Harbor and out into nearshore coastal waters that went from pristine to federally listed as impaired.

Sierra Club got involved a little over a year ago and started a campaign to end the dumping. Hawaii County has now budgeted $104 million to make substantial repairs and to fund a further upgrade to R-1 reuse to allow for recycling as originally envisioned.

We are still a couple of years away from ending the illegal dumping, but with the help of champions like Councilmember Karen Eoff and Managing Director Wally Lau, the funding has been secured and the project has become a priority.

After 20 years of neglect, the aerated lagoons are being restored to full functioning and capacity. The R-1 phase will take a little longer as the environmental review is expected to begin soon and design and construction will follow, but the money is there to reach our goal.


Fundraising Success

Fundraising Success
Mahalo to the Moku Loa Group members and shoppers who made the Maku‘u Farmers Market Rummage Sale on October 6, 2013 a success! Watch for another rummage sale in February, with more information to be posted on MLG’s website and Facebook page. We are looking for donations of household, camping, furniture, sporting goods, books, electronics, kitchen, etc. items for the rummage sale.

Conservation Update

Conservation Presentation
Hear about how the Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project and the State of Hawaii are working to preserve and protect the habitat of the endangered palila on Wednesday, February 12 at Thelma Parker Library in Waimea (7:00 p.m). The most recent palila count is approximately 1700 birds. In the past year, the State of Hawaii and the Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project have built fences and removed 1800 sheep from Mauna Kea. The State is finally acting to fulfill requirements of previous lawsuits. Let’s support them!

Dr. Renate Gassmann, Ph.D., DVM 1946-2013
Hawai’i conservationists recently lost a respected advocate, scientist, and activist, Dr. Renate Gassmann. She and her husband worked many years at Pohakuloa on Hawai‘i Island and Olinda on Maui with the ‘alala and other endangered birds. She was a long-time member of Maui Group Sierra Club, Audubon and Hawai’i Conservation Council. On Maui, she took birders into the TNC Waikamoi Reserve to view rare birds like the Maui parrotbill as part of the birding tour company that she founded. More recently, she participated in a number of service and hike outings on the Big Island and shared her birding expertise.

Conservation Issues

High on the slopes of Mauna Loa, Kulani, (once known for its medium security prison) is rich with abundant native plants, birds and insects, and is threatened by invasive plants and ungulates. Our group had successfully lobbied for the inclusion of the Kulani area in the Pu’u Maka’ala Natural Area Reserve. This NAR is rated as the highest quality forest by the State and has suffered little or no logging. We provided constructive comments to the draft environmental assessment, which proposes fencing more acreage and working with partners to restore and preserve forest. The Moku Loa Group has already participated in a 3 day service trip and a hike in Kulani and looks forward to assisting in an effort to preserve this significant area for native bird, insect and plant biodiversity.


Moku Loa Group supports the expansions to Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge proposed in the Hakalau Draft Land Protection Plan and Environmental Assessment. The areas proposed include Maulua, a Koa unit adjacent to the refuge and McCandless lands in Kona adjacent to the Kona Forest Unit. We believe the expansion will have a positive effect on the preservation and restoration of Hawaii’s endangered birds and the island’s ecosystems as a whole, It will protect high quality, bio-diverse habitat, ensure connectivity between habitats, and decrease fragmentation and invasive threats.  From an economic and conservation standpoint, it is better to preserve an intact forest such as the Koa Forest Property and concentrate timber operations on land that has already been degraded by cattle.  The proposed addition to the Kona Forest unit could be important to the recovery of the ‘alala.  According to the 2009 Revised Recovery Plan for the ‘Alala, the success of ‘alala reintroduction depends on the restoration of closed canopy forests.

Waikaku`u, an old growth rainforest on the southern slopes of Mauna Loa, provides critical watershed services to the village of Miloi`i and the springs that support Kona’s abundant ulua fishery. Our group provided testimony at the Hawaii County Board of Appeals regarding a planned unit development that threatens the thousand year-old `ohi`a /kopiko forest.
Kahuku, a three-thousand-acre parcel that was once part of the proposed Hawaiian Riviera resort, is prized by local residents and fishermen for the access to Manuka via Road to the Sea in south Kona. The group has supported the county purchase of the land utilizing funds from the Open Space (2%) fund, and Legacy Lands funding, which were approved in May. The pristine anchialine pools in extensive water cracks along the coast are host to rare and unique organisms adapted to the brackish water. The very extensive cave system on the mauka slopes provided water for the ancient Hawaiian village along the coast as well. Biologically, lava tubes in this area  display greater diversity and more novel species than lava tubes in other areas studied.
An article highlighting Sierra Club’s support is at this link:
The Ka`u Calendar News Briefs, Hawai`i Island: Ka`u News Briefs May 17, 2012

Geothermal proposals by HELCO, state officials and private developers to expand development on Hawaii island have  aroused the concern of local residents and group members, regarding the proximity  of the development to rural communities, the absence of H2S standards for vulnerable populations, and the lack of evacuation planning, noxious H2S venting, well blowout, numerous emergency declarations, and resident relocations.  The group is reviewing Sierra Club’s geothermal policy to reflect two decades of experience with the renewable power generation.

Donna Buell – Treasurer of the National Sierra Club Board of Directors visits with Roberta Brashear-Kaulfers-Hawaii Chapter Chairon the Big Island.


Chapter Conservation Chairs Debbie Ward and Lucienne DeNaie are soliciting interest in a statewide conservation committee for

  1. Issues that cross island boundaries, such as DLNR mammal hunting rules, and more.
  2. Envision/propose legislative action that have multi- island impacts, such as invasive sp, GMO labeling
  3. Taking initiative on statewide policy issues, such as  land use,  agriculture /open space, energy
  4. Training, as needed on environmental law, strategies, and resources
  5. Others as suggested

We propose to set up an informal working group, with members identified by island, interests, expertise. Members would prioritize issues and identify working group members, involve Capitol Watch members/champions, and interact with Hawaii Chapter Excom members.  We propose to meet by conference call for specific issues, and consider meeting quarterly before ExCom meetings (some members may be on both committees), and report to Excom with action items quarterly.  If you, or people you know, are interested, please contact Debbie Ward at dward@hawaii.edu.

The Conservation Committee recently provided a letter of support to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture regarding the release of a bio-control agent to reduce the reproductive efficiency of the strawberry guava, which is invading the native forests on all islands, and imperiling the watersheds.


Moku Loa Group Conservation Committee
by Debbie Ward

Moku Loa Group members are actively contributing testimony for numerous current controversial project proposals, including Aina Koa Pono biofuels, the Kaloko Makai development above the Kaloko Honokohau NP, Kahuku Village at historically significant Pohue Bay, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s management plan, Hu Honua biofuels, and Papaikou beach access.

Mauna Kea management was the issue that brought Sierra Club and other petitioners to the Intermediate Court of Appeals in November.  Marti Townsend of KAHEA represented the petitioners, and UH attorney Lisa Munger claimed that the comprehensive management plan “does nothing.”  The arguments are online at http://www.courts.state.hi.us/courts/oral_arguments/archive/oaica30397.html

MLG member Debbie Ward is a petitioner in the BLNR contested case hearing regarding the proposal to build one of the world’s largest telescopes on the undisturbed northern plateau of Mauna Kea. She reports that the testimony phase has ended, and the Hearing Officer will make a recommendation to the BLNR early next year. The Conservation Committee meets every fourth Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. for potluck and 6 p.m. for meeting at the Kea`au Community Center.

Update on Pohakuloa
by Cory Harden

Regarding the Army’s modernization plan for Pohakuloa, we commend them on several counts: Acknowledging the U.S. takeover of the Kingdom of Hawai`i; including a thoughtful description of the spiritual and cultural significance of Pohakuloa; mentioning old military sites, and holding this open house and public hearing.

However, we have many concerns:

  • Is this the only place in the world this training can be done? Why was Pohakuloa the only place considered?
  • Why does the EIS say there’s no danger from depleted uranium? Only a few fragments of DU spotting rounds were found at Pohakuloa, but there may be 2,000. Where are they?
  • Why did DU air monitoring, as planned last year, have air filters with pores that were ten times too large?
  • Why is it too dangerous to hunt for DU in the impact area—but safe to send bulldozers to crush lava for a one- by two-mile battle course?
  • Is the training once done at Makua coming to Pohakuloa? Makua training brought fires that consumed thousands of acres in the past thirteen years. At Pohakuloa, the weeklong fire last year (not caused by the military) showed what could happen in a tinderbox area with no County water.
  • Pohakuloa is a significant cultural area with almost 500 reported archeological sites. But archeological studies and historical consultation aren’t complete, so the public can’t review them.
  • The EIS says wildlife would “temporarily leave the area during periods of loud noise and disturbance, but may return.” How would you fare if, every few months, you were chased out of your home?

And we ask again: Why is there so much money for new military projects, and so little for cleaning up hazardous old sites?

Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa Sought for Multiple Use

by Deborah Ward

While the Army proposes to expand the Pohakuoa Training Area into highly sensitive cultural resource and native plant habitat for the Stryker brigade, and plans to train hundreds of helicopter pilots in high-elevation simulations in endangered palila, petrel, and `io habitat within the ceded lands designated Conservation District, the BLNR  has issued a provisional permit for a huge new expansion on the northern plateau on Mauna Kea. The board determined that a contested case hearing must be held before the UH could proceed, and seven petitioners will make the case for permit denial before a hearing officer in August. (To read more, go to www.KAHEA.org). Sierra Club, which prevailed in court in 2006 to compel the development of a comprehensive management plan, was recently mentioned in the news when the Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled that our pro bono attorneys could not recover fees and court costs for their extensive work to compel the state to follow its own rules.