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Elle Cochran busy attending meetings on county issues

By Staff | Mar 17, 2011


WAILUKU — In the past month, I have had the pleasure of meeting with several organizations and individuals throughout the community.

On Feb. 25, I met with the Lahaina Restoration Foundation and LahainaTown Action Committee to discuss issues within the Lahaina Historic District. Our discussions included the parking ordinance, broken or out-of-compliance signage, reintroduction of native plants and trees to the Lahaina area, Lahaina Small Boat Harbor Ferry Pier Improvements and several upcoming events. I hope to help facilitate their efforts to preserve our Historic District designation.

Other meetings and issues that have been brought to my attention recently were the Bike Tour Study, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), issues regarding Honolua Bay and various budgetary matters. I was also given a tour of the Central Maui Service Center (DMV), at my request, to get a better understanding of how this particular department operates in order to accurately respond to my constituents’ concerns and requests.

I attended a meeting to discuss the disrepair and ownership of Hui Road F. This road has been in limbo for many, many years. The Napili area residents are pursuing talks with Public Works to resolve this issue.

At my Monday, Feb. 28, Infrastructure Management Committee meeting, we received presentations from participants in the Department of Environmental Management’s Wastewater Community Working Group: Jeff Schwartz representing the D.I.R.E. Coalition, and Russell Sparks, an education specialist with DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources.

Also with us via telephone conference was Ed Tschupp of the County of Kauai Department of Public Works, who was able to talk with us about the County of Kauai’s Lihue Wastewater Treatment Plant, which was recently upgraded from R-2 to an R-1 facility last year. In addition, Lauren Roth Venu from Roth Ecological Design, Oahu, spoke to us about constructed wetlands and alternative uses for recycled water.

At the meeting, I emphasized that we would focus primarily on water reuse infrastructure needs and potential infrastructure upgrades that will aid in the long-term goal of phasing out injection wells and encourage the reuse of this valuable resource.

An injection well is a device that places wastewater deep underground into porous rock formations, which makes its way into our ocean waters. Recycling wastewater for irrigation and other uses is an efficient, ecologically sound alternative to the use of injection wells. Currently, only 22 percent of the county’s wastewater is recycled.

Former Mayor Charmaine Tavares formed the Maui Wastewater Community Working Group, which worked for more than a year on phasing out the use of injection wells before the end of 2020. In addition, the Countywide Policy Plan, enacted by Ordinance No. 3232 (2010), mandates the phasing out of the use of injection wells.

The draft Maui Island Plan, referred to the General Plan Committee this term, makes reference to “Wastewater-Major Capital Improvements.” According to the draft plan, major projected capital costs to 2030 will be in the following areas: 1) Repair and upgrades to the existing aging plant and collection systems; 2) Compliance with EPA Consent Decree requirements for continuing investigations and replacement of aging/leaking transmission lines; 3) Expansion of wastewater reuse and distribution in Central, South and West Maui; 4) Tsunami and Shoreline erosion protection; 5) Major repair, upgrades and plant expansion to the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility.

To accomplish the county’s objective of phasing out injection wells, these long-term infrastructure additions (along with a complete overhaul of our existing infrastructure) will require master planning and a look at the bigger picture, rather than working section by section.

I look forward to engaging with the committee members to move beyond discussions and into an analysis of concrete infrastructure improvements needed to initiate phasing out the use of injection wells. The task is challenging, but with our ability to work intensively on this matter, I am confident that we will be able to work with the Department of Environmental Management towards positive results.

The follow-up meeting on March 14 was to expound on the first discussion, with a word from Mayor Alan Arakawa, an in-depth presentation from Lauren Roth Venu as well as questions to the Departments of Environmental Management, Finance and Budget. My hope is that these committee discussions will aid in the decision-making where injection wells are concerned during the upcoming Fiscal Year 2012 budget process.

The county budget process is set to begin March 30 and will continue until June. We will have several public hearings. If you would like to attend, please check the county website for dates and times of meetings in your district. Visit www.co.maui.hi.us.

In the upcoming month, I will be attending the TOUR de TRASH on March 21 and Maui Aloha ‘Aina Recycling event to benefit St. Anthony School on April 30. I’d like to encourage public participation in all of these wonderful events; hope to see you there!