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‘Environmental justice’ bills are OK’d by Council

Three bills designed to combat illegal dumping, grading and related issues on Oahu’s agricultural lands won final approval from the Honolulu City Council Wednesday.

Councilwoman Kymberly Pine, who described the package of bills as “environmental justice” measures, said illegal dumping has long been a problem for her West Oahu constituents.

The situation was magnified in August 2013 when silt material dredged from Hawaii Kai Marina spilled onto H-1 freeway while being trucked to a Waianae Valley Road agricultural lot. The spill tied up traffic for hours. City officials later determined the dumping at the lot had been illegal.

Pine said her staff and other city officials spent months working on the bills to ensure the laws would apply “only to true offenders,” and not law-abiding farmers.

Bill 36, in particular, “will catch the attention of a lot of people in the community” who now make money by dumping agricultural or industrial waste in the community even if they are caught and fined, she said. “I think now people will take notice and will no longer be able to profit by continuing these illegal activities.”

Bill 36 increases the maximum fines that the city’s planning and permitting director can slap on those found in violation of grading, grubbing and stockpiling materials. Fines increase to $5,000 a day maximum and $5,000 for each additional day of violation.

Currently, the fines are $1,000 per violation and $1,000 for each additional day of violation. The bill also adds a new provision requiring the land affected to be restored to its previous condition.

Farmer Larry Jefts, chairman of the West Oahu Soil and Water Conservation District, said his organization supports the bill as a means of curtailing illegal dumping, grubbing and stockpiling. The agency had previously raised concerns that farmers could be negatively affected if they couldn’t move materials around quickly in the event of landslides or other natural disasters. But changes to the bill have addressed those concerns, Jefts told Council members Wednesday.

Waianae Valley homesteader Kapua Keliikoa-Kamai told Council members she supports the measures because “they are intended for those individuals that continue to attempt to circumvent governmental guidelines, ordinances and laws, not the good farmers that properly manage their property and materials.”

The other two measures given final approval are:

» Bill 35, which would change the city’s laws regarding stockpiling of materials on private property, essentially barring any property owner or developer from stockpiling on agricultural lands any materials containing contaminants, construction debris and other substances harmful to the agricultural productivity of soils.

» Bill 37, which allows the planning director to deny after-the-fact grading permits if found to be in violation and to instead issue an order to return the land to its original condition.

The bills now go to Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Star Advertiser News Article by Gordon Pang.

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