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Kaanapali Hillside residents concerned about proposed million-gallon water tank

By Staff | Jun 23, 2016

The water storage tank is proposed north of Puukolii Road near the intersection of Puu Hale Street.

KAANAPALI – Since the first of the year, there has been a buildup of e-mail activity between Kaanapali Hillside residents and the County of Maui about the proposed location for a one million-gallon recycled water storage tank to the north of Puukolii Road near the intersection of Puu Hale Street.

Poor communication, or a lack thereof, has led to miscommunication, misinformation, rumors and innuendo, raising the hackles of many on both sides.

It started with questions about a team of surveyors.

Mike Sowers, the then-vice president of the Kaanapali Hillside Homeowners Association (KHHA), wrote to Stewart Stant, director of the county Department of Environmental Management (DEM), in late January: “Over the last few months, we’ve had surveyors in the area laying out plans for a water storage tank that will hold water from the West Maui water treatment plant.”

Sowers asked for clarity.

“A number of owners have had questions concerning the project,” he wrote to the county official.

“I am asking for help to get accurate information to be passed on to them,” the West Sider added.

The county was responsive; Michael E. Miyamoto, DEM deputy director, e-mailed: “Thank you for sharing your awareness of our project. It shows me that we haven’t done a sufficient job at reaching out to the public and keeping them informed of our projects.”

Blindsided by the project, many in the Kaanapali Hillside community agree with the Miyamoto assessment of the county’s questionable communication skills.

Kim von Tempsky lives within 70 feet of the proposed site and was one of three original owners of the Hillside, purchasing the lot he lives on with his wife in 1983.

He was stunned by county plans to build a 27-foot high tank, at the top of the dome, and 96 feet in diameter, impacting the profile of Kaanapali Hillside forever.

“They took a relatively high-scale neighborhood, and then they go ahead, without even discussing it with anybody, just go ahead and propose that this is where they are going to put this monstrosity,” von Tempsky observed.

He thinks it might be a done deal, reasoning, “It is more than talking about it; they are moving forward, but they have to go through with whatever protocol they have to face in order to get it installed. But they have already surveyed the spot; the stakes are in the ground. You can see them right from my porch. As far as the county is concerned, this is the ideal placement for this tank. I am assuming that this is the right way to describe it, because that is what they are moving forward with.”

Stant has been inundated by e-mails and responded in a communication dated June 9: “This letter is in response to the e-mails I have received in regards to the Puukolii Water Tank. All of the e-mails contained similar information I do not know where this information came from but can assure you it is inaccurate at best, or otherwise downright false.”

Far too late, Stant’s responses generated more questions and back-and-forth bantering, with some of his terse explanations enflaming the community, like: “We have heard the voice of the community, and regulators are committed to promoting sustainability throughout the County of Maui;” “This would not be economically feasible;” and “We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Sowers, now representing the Kaanapali Hillside Homeowners Association as chair of their Public Works Committee, was indignant.

“You (Stant) state that the tank will be setback from Puukolii Road 50 feet. It doesn’t matter if it’s against Puukolii or 100 feet from Puukolii; it is a massive eyesore that will destroy property values throughout the Hillside neighborhood.”

Further, Sowers questioned, “You state that you’ve heard the voice of the community. The voice of our community is saying, ‘Do not build your tank next to Puukolii!’ “

“I again ask,” Sowers said, “why weren’t the neighbors consulted before having this monstrosity shoved down our throats?”

Temperatures along the hills of the West Side and in the corridors of the County Building in Wailuku were rising proportionately, with correspondingly shorter answers given.

The homeowners, von Tempsky observed, are not opposed to the recycled water tank along Puukolii – just in that particular location.

“Why did they not locate a site that would not impact the more than 900 residences that are part of the Hillside?” he incredulously asked.

“My only suggestion,” von Tempsky advised, “would be that if it needs to be on Puukolii Road, then they should move it further up mauka from where it is now where the electrical substation is – up in that area, and that way it could be placed there along with the other tanks and stuff already there, and it wouldn’t impact anybody at this time.”

“The County of Maui and landowner,” Stant said, “already went over alternatives and agreed upon the proposed site.”

Enter Mike White, chair of the Maui County Council; he stepped in to help remediate the inflammatory situation, asking Stant for more details in a letter dated June 1.

Stant answered in a June 7 correspondence, “The infrastructure for this project was initially planned to be constructed on Department of Hawaiian Home Land (DHHL) property, north of the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility.”

Negotiations between DHHL and the county were not successful, Stant continued, and the county was forced to look elsewhere.

“There are only two property owners mauka of the highway, above the wastewater reclamation facility, DHHL and Kaanapali Land Management Company (KLMC), that could meet the design requirements for the proposed infrastructure. Therefore we contacted KLMC and began negotiations with them to acquire a piece of property along Kakaalaneo Drive, but they denied it. KLMC suggested the property along Puukolii Road, where the proposed location currently is, and we agreed. We are wrapping up the study for the proposed improvements; and, upon completion, will conduct public meetings to discuss the proposed improvements.”

White was transparent, answering questions the Lahaina News had.

“The water tank,” he explained, “is a part of a larger scale project which started in Fiscal Year 2012 to convert discharge from the Lahaina Wastewater Treatment Plant to R-1 water (phase 1A). Phase 1B includes service lateral installations, pump upgrades and the construction of a storage tank to transport the R1 water throughout the community.”

“With any county project,” White advised, “an Environmental Assessment needs to be conducted before the project can move forward. It appears this is currently underway and is the reason residents were informed of the project; therefore, there will be ample opportunity for the community to provide input on this project.”

“The tank ultimately needs to go somewhere, as it is critical to fulfilling the county’s plan of better utilizing recycled water. I do believe, however, there must be greater outreach to the community in regards to locations explored, along with possible cost implications of other locations.

“I hope,” White concluded, “we can continue to dialogue on this project, while also keeping focus on our end goal of utilizing our recycled water and compromising on a location the community can agree upon.”

Rest assured, the Hillside homeowners will remain attentive.