Kauai developer’s ‘microblasting’ stirs concerns about historic sites, protected species

Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 9:37 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 9, 2022 at 11:13 AM HST
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KOLOA, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A group of residents in Koloa town on Kauai’s south shore have long been opposed to a new condominium development.

But now they’re upset that the developer has started using blasting methods as part of construction.

Drone video from non-profit group Save Koloa shows what appears to be underground explosions at the site of the Kauanoe O Koloa condo project next to the Kiahuna Golf Course.

“They’re calling it microblasting,” said Friends of Mahaulepu member Bridget Hammerquist. “I know it’s loud. I know they give a siren warning, five-minute warning, two-minute warning.”

Protesters turned out in droves a week ago.

They said the blasts may be destroying ancient caves, protected species and burial areas.

“When we found out that they were going to be blasting for eight months straight, to us it’s almost like they know there’s burials there and they’re going in and they’re destroying whatever proof there is,” said Elizabeth Okinaka, founder of Save Koloa.

Developer Meridian Pacific wants to build 279 luxury condo units on 25 acres.

They said microblasting methods are used to get through dense rock so they can build required infrastructure.

Save Koloa and Friends of Mahaulepu filed suit against Kauai County and Meridian Pacific.

The nonprofits said both the county and developer failed to do required biological and environmental studies and are threatening the habitat of endangered species.

“It would have been one thing to have a machine out there with a cultural monitor and try to do things the right way, in case iwi (bones of descendants) or caves or endangered species are found,” said Okinaka.

Meridian Pacific said a team of archaeologists, geologists and biologists did tests on the site beforehand. It also said the State Historic Preservation Division said there were no historic properties affected by the work being done.

In a statement, Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said after hearing concerns about the microblasting from community members, he reached out to the state Historic Preservation Division and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In response, the division said they conducted a site investigation last Friday.

Meanwhile, opponents said Kauanoe O Koloa is just another sign of over-development on Kauai’s south shore that won’t benefit residents. “There’s nobody that lives here that’s going to buy them,” said Hammerquist about the planned condos.

“It’s going to be purchased by people who are investors, people who have vacation rental interest.”

A judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order against the development, but has scheduled a hearing on the opponents’ lawsuit next month.

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