Maui planning commissioner at center of debate over alleged shoreline pollution

Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 5:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Maui, multiple state and county agencies are investigating alleged pollution at Olowalu on the west shore.

At the center of the controversy is the chair of the county’s planning commission.

On July 15, cultural expert and Maui burial council Chair Dane Maxwell took drone video at Olowalu on Maui’s west side. He says the blue shoreline and reef were blanketed with brown silt.

“It was covered in brown silt and dirt. It’s significant,” said Maxwell.

The state Department of Health says it’s investigating “numerous complaints alleging water pollution stemming from construction activities on the Olowalu Elua property.”

Meanwhile, the state Land Department and county slapped Lawrence Carnicelli, managing director of the company, with notices of violation for grading and grubbing three acres of state property.

Carnicelli is also chair of Maui’s Planning Commission.

For years, west Maui has been battered by coastal erosion.

“It doesn’t help when there’s illegal clearing of shoreline of property to improve views and that is also going to water and smothering the reef,” said Kai Nishiki, Maui community advocate.

During a Sept. 29 hearing before the Maui County Council, Carnicelli said his company isn’t to blame.

“There’s no runoff from the site into the ocean. The turbid waters and the brown waters in the ocean are due to coastal erosion and not erosion from the site,” said Carnicelli.

“The process is not everybody asks for permission when they mow their lawn so there’s exempt activities which we were doing for the DLNR and at our expense. We did an after the fact assessment,” he added.

County Council member Keani Rawlins-Fernandez responded: “I think mowing lawns and grading near documented burial sites are slightly different."

Olowalu Elua is fighting the violation notices.

In a statement, Carnicelli said Olowalu Elua is “committed to preserving and protecting Olowalu’s ‘crown jewel’ reef system and to maintaining lateral shoreline access across all of Olowalu for Maui residents to enjoy. We are currently addressing all concerns brought to us and continue to actively mitigate any environmental impacts."

The statement continues: "While we are not perfect, we have learned lessons through this experience and strive to improve every day. We believe Olowalu is the most special place in Hawaii and we encourage collaboration with members of the public that would like to keep it that way.”

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