Manage Your Account

Log Out

Advanced search

Maui County Violates Clean Water Act, Court Finds

Maui County’s operation of its Lahaina sewage treatment plant has been found to violate the federal Clean Water Act.

U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway issued a ruling on May 30 finding that the four injection wells used by the plant do, in fact, discharge treated effluent into the waters off Kahekili Beach on the west side of Maui island. Mollway based her ruling in large part on the results of tracer dye tests that followed the fate of injectate from the plant to coastal waters.

Maui County sought to have the judge delay her ruling in light of its application to the state Department of Health for an NPDES permit (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System). As Mollway notes, however, the county applied for the permit on November 14, 2012, after the lawsuit had been filed. “As of March 6, 2014, the DOH had ‘not made a tentative or preliminary determination on the application.’”

Only on May 22, after Mollway had already heard arguments from the respective parties, did the state issue a draft permit to the county. The state attorney general notified the judge that the county would have until June 9 to comment on the draft permit.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Hawai`i Wildlife Fund, the Sierra Club-Maui Group, Surfrider Foundation, and the West Maui Preservation Association. They were represented by David Henkin of the Mid-Pacific office of Earthjustice.

To read Mollway’s damning, 59-page ruling, click here:Mollway ruling.pdf

Environment Hawai`i has reported extensively on the Lahaina plant. See, for example, the cover article in our February 2012 edition.

Jury Finds State Owns
Haleakala Bridle Trail

Photo by Bryan Berkowitz/PATH

The long and acrimonious dispute over ownership of the Haleakala Trail has been decided. On April 23, a jury determined that the state of Hawai`i does indeed own the six-foot-wide trail extending from Makawao up to Haleakala crater.

As Environment Hawai`i reported in our February 2014 edition, the state had come to the lawsuit, filed by Public Access Trails Hawai`i (PATH), with its feet dragging. For years, state attorneys and the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife had attempted to come to an agreement with adjoining landowner Haleakala Ranch, allowing for public access, subject to very stringent limits. But earlier this year, the Board of Land and Natural Resources rejected that, and the lawsuit, filed in 2011, went to jury trial.

According to a statement from PATH, “At trial, the state and plaintiffs presented evidence showing public use and government ownership of Haleakala Trail, including documents from the Hawai‘i State archives, government maps, newspapers, legislative journals, and travel narratives including those from Mark Twain, Jack London and Isabella Bird. There was also expert testimony from Anthony Crook, a professional surveyor, Doris Moana Rowland, the Na Ala Hele State title abstractor, and Richard Stevens, Ph.D., a world historian and expert trail researcher….

“Evidence at trial demonstrated that Haleakala Trail was a continuation of a long-established native Hawaiian trail, which connected to an overland pass across East Maui through Haleakala Crater. Westerners began ascending Haleakala Trail long before the Mahele of 1848. Later, the government significantly improved Haleakala Trail through two major public work projects, by the Kingdom of Hawai‘i in 1889 and by the Territory of Hawai‘i in 1905. “

According to David Brown, PATH’s executive director, the next and final phase of the trial will determine the issues remaining in the case—namely historic preservation of Haleakala Trail and securing meaningful public access. “We have a moral obligation to protect Hawai‘i’s past, including its rich history of trails,” Brown said. “The longer we wait to protect Hawai‘i’s cultural legacy, the greater the risk it will be lost forever for generations to come.”

For details, or to learn more about PATH, see


Environment Hawai`i has been asked to post the following notice:

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement is investigating thefts of very rare endangered plants at specific locations on Hawai`i island. Take of listed plants protected under the federal endangered species act is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000, one year in jail or both.

Please call 808-933-6964 to provide information confidentially.

Anyone who provides key information resulting in a conviction of those involved may be considered to receive a reward."

We ask your kokua.


September 2014

Justice Delayed…

When it comes to the arcana of American jurisprudence, the cases alleging Central American worker injury as a result of DBCP exposure provide a good introduction. There you will find such unusual tactics as impleadings, claims of forum non conveniens and even the rarely seen writ of coram nobis.

What you won’t see is much, if any, argument on the merits of the workers’ claims.

One case still being litigated in Hawai`i courts offers residents here a front-row seat into the legal tactics that have been employed to prevent the workers from having their day in court. Whether it meets the same fate as dozens of others will depend on the outcome of the state Supreme Court hearing this month.


New & Noteworthy: Kealakehe, Little Fire Ant

Wespac to Discipline Itself Over Turtle Delisting Petition

Storm Puts To Rest Debate Over Threat of Albizia

Hawai`i Plaintiffs Await Action On Claim of Injury From DBCP

30 Years of Litigation, But Only One Jury Trial

Board Talk: Sex Trafficking Victims May Use Old School; TMT Appeal Denied; North Shore Seawalls; and More

Old Agreements Confound Ban On Hotel Use of Waikiki Beach

August 2014

Fishy Science

Best available science – science uncorrupted by overweening economic objectives or political interests. That’s the kind of science that is supposed to guide the nation’s fishery management councils as they advise the federal agencies that ultimately decide such important issues as catch limits or allowable takes of rare and endangered species.

Yet, as our reports on the latest meeting of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council document, that’s not happening. Science has taken a back seat and economics is the driver.

Also in this issue:

A review of Hawai`i mariculture operations, past and future: In this article, we look at projects proposed by Blue Ocean Mariculture, Randy Cates, and Kampachi Farms.

Vitousek Conference highlights: Editor Patricia Tummons reports on the latest research on montane soils, dryland agriculture, and the wekiu bug presented at the annual gathering of environmental researchers in Hawai`i.

Board Talk: Our regular wrap-up of actions of the Board of Land and Natural Resources includes a look at recent transfers of land to the state Agribusiness Development Corporation, the new Thirty-Meter-Telescope sublease for Mauna Kea, and the new crop of Land Board members.

July 2014

Judgment Days

In this issue – the first in our 25th year of publishing! – we review cases of recent environmental litigation. Our cover story discusses the critically important decision of a federal judge in a case involving the discharge of wastewater into injection wells near the Lahaina coast, while a sidebar looks at the potential consequences this could have for Hawai`i County.

Other litigation reviewed in this article concerns:

The ATST on Haleakala: Kilakila o Haleakala, the group opposed to the construction of the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (now known as the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope) had appealed to the Intermediate Court of Appeals a lower court ruling that rejected its challenge of the acceptance by the Board of Land and Natural Resources of an environmental assessment for the Haleakala Management Plan prepared by the University of Hawai`i. The ICA upheld the lower court ruling.

The TMT on Mauna Kea: Six petitioners involved in a contested-case hearing over a Conservation District permit for the Thirty-Meter Telescope planned for Mauna Kea have appealed a lower-court ruling to the ICA. In a decision issued in May, Judge Greg K. Nakamura of the 3rd Circuit Court upheld the Land Board’s award of the permit for the construction of the TMT.

Waimanalo Gulch EIS: As a state senator, Colleen Hanabusa brought a lawsuit against the City and County of Honolulu, challenging the environmental impact statement prepared for the expanded operation of Waimanalo Gulch landfill, O`ahu’s only permitted sanitary landfill. A lower court judge rejected her appeal, as did the ICA in a ruling issued May 30.

Federal Panel Mulls `Aina Le`a Dispute: A panel of the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals heard arguments from the state and from the developers concerning the state’s appeal of federal Judge Susan Oki Mollway’s denial of the state’s request to give members of the Land Use Commission immunity from damage claims by the developers in a litigation still pending in lower courts.

Pflueger, Again! Jimmy Pflueger refused to sign documents that would give kuleana landowners in Pila`a, Kaua`i, access rights assured in prior court rulings. Despite a series of decisions against him going all the way to the state Supreme Court, Pflueger’s attorneys argued before the ICA that some aspects of the case were still ripe for argument. The ICA was having none of it and rejected Pflueger’s appeal.

Waikiki Setback Appeal Heads to Supreme Court: Groups opposed to the decision by the Honolulu planning director to allow a new wing of the Moana Surfrider hotel to encroach on shoreline setbacks and height limits are going straight to the state Supreme Court in their appeal of a lower court ruling.

Also in this issue, we report on the latest efforts of Big Island developer Scott Watson to win approvals for his “Pepe`ekeo Palace” and wrap up the issue with our regular “Board Talk” column.

June 2014

Legislature Balks at Biosecurity Bills,
But Boosts Funds for Invasive Species

Foreign arrivals are up!

The same phrase that gladdens the heart of the visitor industry arouses dread in the hearts of the officials charged with keeping Hawai`i’s environment and important crops safe from marauding invaders. Consider:

The coconut rhinocerous beetle. This native of India has devastated palm trees across the South Pacific and, with its arrival in Hawai`i last winter, could do the same here. Federal and state agencies, as well as the Army, are sparing no expense to keep it from gaining a foothold here.

The macadamia felted coccid: No one knows exactly how it got here from its home in Queensland, but it is now damaging even the most mature, established macadamia orchards on the Big Island.

Little fire ant, coqui frog, albizia trees – the list goes on and on.

The destructive critters and little-shop-of-horror plants seem to arrive as fast as the airlines and ships can bring them in. The state’s quarantine defenses are stuck, meanwhile, with a budget that would have been inadequate in the horse-and-buggy era.

As our cover article shows, the Legislature’s $5 million appropriation to address invasive species is better than it’s been in years’ past, but – in the face of actual threats – not nearly sufficient.


  • New & Noteworthy: Lost Refuges; TMT Judgment

  • State Supreme Court, Federal Appeals Court Schedule Hearings Over `Aina Le`a Disputes

  • Funds to Fight Little Fire Ant Lose Out in Waning Days of Session

  • And the Winner is? The Felted Coccid?

  • Bill Requiring ‘No Net Loss’ of Areas For Game Hunting Fails to Win Passage

  • State Land Board Grapples with Threat of Coastal Erosion to Infrastructure, Homes

  • Malama Solomon Makes Headlines Again for Land Use Infractions

May 2014

Hawai`i Longliners’ Appetite for Bigeye
Only Grows as International Quotas Shrink

Greed is good. That, anyway, was the mantra of the Wall Street anti-hero.

But it serves just as well the owners of the Hawai`i longline fishing fleet and their personal civil servant, Kitty Simonds. Not content to accept the miserly (in their eyes) quota of Western Pacific bigeye tuna allocated to them, they have won an amendment to fishing rules that lets them almost double their annual haul. And were that not enough, they are setting their sights now on bigeye in the Eastern Pacific where stocks, though relatively healthy now, cannot take any further fishing pressure.

Simonds, as executive director of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council, has stepped-up efforts to turn this federally funded agency into a private club and to treat observers as trespassers. Those efforts have reached a point where her dismissal is more than warranted and this month’s editorial calls for just that. If secret meetings and destruction of government records are not enough to get her handlers at the National Marine Fisheries’ Service to take action, then what the heck will it take to set them in motion?

But there’s more than fish in this month’s wrapper. Our “Board Talk” column looks at a wide range of issues tackled by the Board of Land and Natural Resources in recent weeks. And our write-up of Carla D’Antonio’s recent work should give folks who want to understand the mechanisms of ecosystem invasions a lot to think about

[0] comments (0 views) | 

Knowledgeable. Passionate. Independent.
Providing News Found Nowhere Else.

In June 2013, Environment Hawai'i, a monthly newsletter, completed 23 years of continuous publication. We thank all of our loyal subscribers for your contributions to this astonishing run. Mahalo nui loa.

If you want to see us around for another 23 years, now is the time to show your support. New subscriptions are welcome too. Give your colleagues who are always cockroaching your copy subscriptions of their own. Any and all gifts, are deeply appreciated.

Pay for your subscriptions online! Environment Hawai`i accepts Visa and MasterCard payments online. Just go to our Subscriptions webpage. The monthly issues are 12 pages of densely packed, tightly written articles on the some of the most troubling environmental issues facing Hawai`i today.

View an online version of one of our past issues -- JANUARY_2008_ISSUE.pdf -- or REQUEST A FREE SAMPLE COPY!

Please support the investigation and publication of essential news stories so that our islands can be protected by an informed community. If our stories or our website have helped you, support our non-profit organization further with a donation. Mahalo.

Since 1990, Environment Hawai`i has gained a reputation as the single most important source of news on environmental issues in the 50th state. Environment Hawai`i is published monthly by Environment Hawai`i, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.

We have a new four-tiered subscription structure.

  • Our basic rate for individuals: $65 a year (12 issues)

  • Libraries, schools, and other non-profit entities: $100 a year

  • Corporations: $130 a year

  • A special "Economic Downturn" rate: $40 a year If you need it, use it.

Environment Hawai`i is also available in microform through Unviersity Microfilms' Alternative Press Collection (300 North Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106-1346).

Environment Hawai`i staff

Patricia Tummons, Editor
Teresa Dawson, Staff Writer

Environment Hawai`i, Inc. directors:

Kathy Baldwin
Deborah Chang
Teresa Dawson
Mary Evanson
Ron Terry
Patricia Tummons
Valerie Monson


Our archives are password protected, but available to subscribers at no charge. If you are a subscriber and renewing through PayPal, your password will be immediately issued. If you have a current subscription and want to have archive access, please let us know by email ( or by calling our office, toll-free at 877 934-0130. We will set you up with an account as soon as we can.

If you do not subscribe, you may still browse our archives. If you want to read any article in its entirety, you will need to purchase a two-day archive pass for $10, using PayPal.

Some helpful hints: If you are looking for articles on a specific subject, you may want to use our search engine. We would suggest that you use the "advanced search" option and enter as many specific terms as you can. Do use okina when spelling out Hawaiian words (use the single quote key instead of the reverse apostrophe).

190 Keawe Street, Suite 29 | Hilo, HI | 96720 | (808) 934-0115 |
© 1990-2014 Environment Hawaiʻi. All rights reserved.