Star Advertiser: Red Hill fuel tanks need swift remedy

 Honolulu Star Advertiser | Editorial |  Our View  |  Saturday, May 27, 2017

Designed during World War II as a bombproof reserve, Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility houses 20 aging tanks — each large enough to swallow Aloha Tower. It helps serve an ongoing U.S. military need for “uninterrupted access to large volume, secure and sustainable fuel storage facilities” in Hawaii and throughout the Pacific. But it’s also perched just 100 feet above Oahu’s primary aquifer, which supplies drinking water to more than 600,000 residents, from Moanalua to Hawaii Kai.

Concern about its potential to taint drinking water quality shot up in the aftermath of a 27,000-gallon fuel leak in January 2014. The next year, the Navy (Red Hill’s operator) entered into an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Health Department (site regulator) that requires a series of studies and upgrades over a span of 20 years.

The Hawaii Sierra Club rightly contends that pace is too slow, particularly with looming EPA budget cuts under the Trump administration. Given the proposal to cut EPA funding by about 30 percent, we cannot rely heavily on the federal government to protect our environment or public health.

The nonprofit is now applying some needed arm-twisting, to have the Navy speed progress. On Wednesday, it delivered notice to the Department of Health that the agency is in violation of a 1992 state law that required replacement or upgrades of underground systems storing hazardous material by late 1998. The DOH has yet to respond to the petition, which could serve as a prelude to a lawsuit against the state.

For safety’s sake, the Sierra Club and others must continue to force the issue. In addition to complying with the upgrades law, the DOH needs to clearly specify terms for cleanups and decommissioning of all underground tanks in Hawaii, most of which are tiny compared to those under Red Hill. Although the military facility is a hidden feat of engineering — constructed in four years — it was not built to last forever.

It’s frustrating to see that Navy and environmental regulators have yet to even settle on exactly how the tanks would be upgraded. Some state officials and others want what’s now considered the closest thing to a sure-bet seal: a double-walled retrofit. The Navy, which has, in the past, expressed concerns about cost, is weighing new technology and other ideas. At least six options are under review. But three years have passed since the worrisome leak. A selection should be made quickly.

The longer the wait, the more likely it is we’ll see more trouble with the 77-year-old tanks. Studies document leaks dating back to 1947, corrosion of liners, and gauge risk of a catastrophic fuel release, which the Board of Water Supply says could pollute the aquifer and our water supply for many years.

Earlier this year, the Navy assured state lawmakers that the tanks are not leaking. In written testimony, it said: “validated testing confirms, and all parties agree” the drinking water from the shaft is safe. Since the 2014 leak, the Navy has stepped up testing of drinking and groundwater and added monitoring wells. Also, over the past decade, the federal government has made $200 million in improvements, ranging from installation of groundwater and soil vapor monitoring systems to structurally reinforcing and renovating tunnels and passageways.

EPA officials echo a sense of calm in a May status update, which states that drinking water in the area meets federal and state standards, and that recent tests had not detected any fuel leaks.

But catastrophe scenarios — touched off by an earthquake, for example — are unnerving. The BWS estimates that structural failure could sink more than 1 million gallons of fuel into groundwater and potentially several million gallons into Halawa Stream and Pearl Harbor. The semi-autonomous agency that manages Oahu’s municipal water resources wants the Navy to double-line tanks or relocate them away from the aquifer. The Navy and environmental regulators should pick one or the other, and soon.

The very existence of the Red Hill tanks was a state secret until the early 1990s, when the facility was declassified. Now, with its strengths and flaws under glare of public scrutiny, it’s time to finalize a plan of action for the site’s future and promptly get the job done.

Sierra Club Calls on Health Department to Update Fuel Tank Rules to Prevent Leaks

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi (May 24, 2017) — The Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi delivered official notice to the state Department of Health today that their underground storage tank regulations violate a 1992 state statute. The 1992 law states, “Existing underground storage tanks or existing tank systems shall be replaced or upgraded not later than December 22, 1998 to prevent releases for their operating life.” This has not happened according to the Sierra Club.

Marti Townsend, Director of the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi stated, “This requirement applies to all tanks storing hazardous material underground, including the U.S. Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage  Facility that leaked 27,000 gallons of jet fuel in 2014.”

The Environmental Protection Agency determined in 1987 that the Southern Oʻahu Basal Aquifer located beneath the Red Hill fuel tanks is the “principal source of drinking water” for the island, and that “if contaminated, would create a significant hazard to public health.” Analysis of the Navy’s spillage reports at the Red Hill facility reveals that more than 200,000 gallons of petroleum products have leaked since the facility was built more than 70 years ago. 

“Storing millions of gallons of fuel in rusty, old tanks just one hundred feet over our aquifer is foolish,” said Sierra Club member and volunteer Erynn Fernandez. “My family and I, like thousands of others, drink this water everyday. These tanks need to be immediately and completely upgraded or relocated because our groundwater is too important to be put at risk like this.”

“Given the proposal to cut the EPA’s budget by 31%, we cannot rely solely on the federal government to protect our environment or the public’s health,” said Townsend. “Updating Health Department rules to fully implement long-standing state law ensures Hawaiʻi has all the authority it needs to protect our environment and the health of our people. Upwards of 225 million gallons of jet fuel is being stored in antiquated, leaky tanks 100 feet above Oʻahu’s most significant drinking water resource. This is unacceptable.”

The Sierra Club presented their findings to Dr. Virginia Pressler, director for the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, in a 68-page petition for rulemaking. Their filing concluded that the state constitution, as well as state statute, require the Department of Health to amend its underground storage tank rules because “existing rules fail to protect the quality of the water that residents drink.”

The state Department of Health has 30 days to act on the Sierra Club’s request, either by starting the public rulemaking process or denying the request.

Star Advertiser: Bill to require fees for checkout bags deferred

Honolulu Star Advertiser | By Jayna Omaye | May 14, 2017

The Honolulu City Council deferred action on a bill Wednesday that would require retailers to charge a fee for checkout bags and ban so-called compostable plastic bags.

Several environmentalists advocating for a ban on plastic checkout bags maintained that Bill 59 does not go far enough to reduce litter and protect marine life. But some retailers contended that a fee would encourage customers to bring their own reusable sacks.

The bill would require retailers to charge at least 10 cents for reusable bags and recyclable paper bags. Businesses would keep the revenue generated from the fee.

Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga’s floor amendments, which were added to the bill, would also ban compostable plastic bags, mandate that police enforce the state’s litter control laws, and require the city auditor to “evaluate the efficacy” of the bag fee and other issues and submit a report to the Council by January 2019.

“This is really intended to try to strike a balance between some of the concerns that have been raised,” she said. “The minimum 10-cent fee is not intended to reimburse retailers for the cost of bags. It’s really to provide a uniform deterrent throughout the community that forces consumers to make conscious choices about whether to pay the fee and purchase a bag or whether to start bringing their own recyclable bags.”

But the bill, introduced by Councilman Brandon Elefante, initially sought to place tighter restrictions on Oahu’s plastic bag ban, which allows compostable plastic bags and reusable plastic bags that are at least 2.25 mils (2.25/1,000 of an inch) thick. The ban, which went into effect in July 2015, exempts plastic bags of all types for prepared baked goods, newspapers and other specific items. Hawaii became the first state to ban single-use plastic checkout bags in all counties.

Elefante had proposed amendments Wednesday that would have banned compostable plastic bags and phased out reusable plastic bags by 2020. He had proposed the same amendments at a Public Works, Infrastructure and Sustainability Committee meeting earlier this month, but those changes were not included in the draft that was passed out by Fukunaga, the committee’s chairwoman. He said he plans to introduce his amendments again.

“Even though there’s provisions in there (Fukunaga’s draft) to require a study, it doesn’t go back to the root of the issue, which is to ban plastic bags,” Elefante said Thursday. “It doesn’t go far enough.”

Council Chairman Ron Menor said a final vote on the bill would be taken at next month’s meeting. The Council voted to approve amending the bill to Fuku- naga’s floor draft with a 5-4 vote.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Lauren Zirbel of the Hawaii Food Industry Association and Tina Yamaki of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii supported the fee proposal as a way to discourage customers from using single-use checkout bags. But they opposed any further cutbacks on plastic bags.

“This (fee) proposal is practical, viable and the preferred option instead of an outright ban on bags,” Yamaki said. “Consumers are already reusing plastic bags.”

But Jodi Malinoski of the Sierra Club of Hawaii Oahu Group said Elefante’s amendments would benefit both businesses, which would keep the revenue from the fee, and the environment.

“Unfortunately when the first bag ban happened there were unintended consequences that we allowed the thicker plastic bags to be given to customers,” Malinoski said. “We are compromising on this. The businesses will get to retain the fee for all the bags that they charge. But the intention of having a fee is so they can invest in paper bags, not to buy more plastic bags.”

ACTION ALERT: Support Bill 25- Office of Climate Change

Testimony needed to support the Office of Climate Change, which has its second budget hearing at the Honolulu City Council on Tuesday, May 16th at 9 am!

Last year, O‘ahu residents voted to create an “Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency” and the Mayor’s office has responded by proposing a new office for 2018 that will have 5 full-time staff, including positions to immediately focus on climate change planning, clean energy projects, and better resiliency for our coastal zones and waterways. Woohoo!

Unfortunately, several Councilmembers have suggested eliminating or greatly reducing funds to support the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency — an office mandated by voters and critical for Honolulu. We must show mass support for this Office now, before the budget process gets even tougher.

How you can immediately help:

Please submit online testimony in support for the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency before Tuesday, May 16, when Bill 25 (2017)- the Executive Operating Budget Bill, will be heard in the City Council’s Budget Committee (agenda here).

Bill 25 (2017) is a comprehensive budget bill that includes a request of $404,388 for the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency and its 5 full-time staff for fiscal year 2018. Joshua Stanbro was recently hired as the Chief Resiliency Officer, or the Executive Director position, and he is a great choice to lead this new Office. However, the remaining budget for the office still needs be approved by the City Council so that Josh can hire additional, supporting staff.

Please take two minutes to submit online support for Honolulu’s NEW “Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency”. Because Bill 25 (2017) is a huge budget bill, you must specifically mention that you are in support of the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency within Bill 25 (2017).

Link to online testimony form HERE.

Details for the online testimony form:

Meeting Date: 05-16-2017

Council/Committee: Budget

Agenda Item: Bill 25 (2017) Proposed CD2

Your Position: Support

Written Testimony: “Aloha Chair Manahan and members of the Budget Committee, My name is ____ and I am a resident of _____. I am in strong support of the proposed CD2 amendments by Councilmember Manahan, specifically in regards to the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency in Bill 25 (2017). Councilmember Manahan’s proposed CD2 will restore the full funding for this new Office ($404,388), of which only $270,000 comes from the General Fund paid by city taxpayers. Oahu residents voted to create this office and the city has been fortunate to receive a 2 year grant to hire the Executive Director position. However, a 1 person office cannot be expected to handle all of the responsibilities of creating our resiliency strategy, focusing on all the effects of climate change, and implementing sustainability projects that will boost our local economy and save city taxpayer’s money.  Last year the City paid a $47 million electricity bill! If the new Energy Project Manager saves less than 1% of the city’s electricity costs through energy efficiency measures, the Energy Project Manager will have paid for the entire new office! This Office has the potential to save the city millions every year. In recognizing the necessity and benefits of the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency, the Honolulu City Council should prioritize its funding. I ask that you support the Office of Climate Change and restore the budget request of $404,388 in Bill 25 (2017).”

Online testimony is very helpful, but if you are able to give oral testimony it would be extremely valuable to have supporters for the “Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency” attend the May 16th Budget Committee meeting. Bill 25 (2017) is the fourth item on the agenda, so it could be heard as early as 9:30 am, or as late as 11:30 am, depending on the discussions of the other agenda items. We hope to see you at this important budget hearing on Tuesday, May 16th!

If you have any questions, feel free to email jodi.malinoski(at)


Punalu‘u Shoreline Revetment Project

Aloha, below are the comments that the O‘ahu Group submitted to  in response to the “Punalu‘u Beach Homes Shoreline Protection Project Draft Environmental Assessment Anticipated Finding of No Significant Impact” posted in the April 8, 2017 Environmental Notice:
TO: Department of Permitting and Planning

CC: Punalu‘u Beach Lots Business Management Association,

Group 70 International, Inc. (dba G70)


RE: Punalu‘u Beach Homes Shoreline Protection Project Draft Environmental Assessment Anticipated Finding of No Significant Impact


To whom it may concern:

The Sierra Club of Hawai‘i’s O‘ahu Group offers the following comments under HRS §343 on the DEA (AFONSI) to construct a 634-foot-long shore protection structure on seven residential beachfront lots along 53-215 to 53-239 Kamehameha Highway in Punalu‘u.

Our review of the draft environmental assessment (DEA) for building a 634-foot-long concrete rubble masonry shore protection structure which will require a Shoreline Setback Variance Permit, a Special Management Area (Major) Permit, a Certified Shoreline Survey, Building Permits, and Grading, Grubbing, Trenching and Stockpiling Permits reveals various inadequacies and points of concern. We would appreciate it if the agency and/or applicant’s consultant could follow up with further analysis and answers to the questions below in a revised draft EA.

Problematic section: In Section 3.2 Soils and Shoreline Erosion Conditions, the DEA asserts that “in the long term, the new shoreline revetment will absorb wave energy, promote sand accretion, and slow the impacts from rapid erosion along the shoreline fronting the seven properties. The placement of this structure is not anticipated to cause adverse effects to the shoreline of adjoining properties.”

Discussion and Questions regarding Section 3.2: Claiming that a rubble mound revetment will absorb wave energy is unrealistic. It is easy to see reflected waves heading seaward from any similar revetment on local shorelines. This reflected wave interacts with incident waves to create increased scour in the nearshore zone, making sand deposition less likely. The claim that this structure will “absorb wave energy” is misleading.

Given the likelihood of reflected waves and increased sand scour, how can the DEA claim that the revetment will promote sand accretion? This is the sort of unsupported argument that has been used for years to justify armoring the O‘ahu shoreline and as a result we have an epidemic of beach narrowing, beach loss, reduced public access to the shoreline, and reduced open space – all of which are are intended to be increased and enhanced under the stated objectives of the City and County setback policy.

Additionally, there is no mention of the problem of flanking. At both ends of 634 feet of new revetment the structure will be almost vertical (12:1) and there will be accelerated erosion on unprotected lands. How will this be handled? How will the increased erosion elsewhere on this shoreline as a result of this armoring be mitigated?

Problematic section: In Section 3.5 Biological Resources, the DEA notes that “due to the site’s location, some threatened or endangered marine species may be present on the site or in the vicinity of the site”

Discussion and Questions regarding Section 3.5: As sea level rise threatens sandy shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the continued building of armored shoreline in the main Hawaiian islands greatly limits the habitat options for threatened or endangered marine species, such as native monk seal and green sea turtles. In the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Pacific Islands Region Main Hawaiian Islands Monk Seal Management Plan, NOAA asserts that “coastal development may negatively affect the coastal habitats Hawaiian monk seals depend on by decreasing and degrading available shoreline habitat needed for resting, pupping, rearing, nursing, and molting. Less shoreline habitat, along with increased human presence in coastal areas, also increases the chances of human-seal interactions and seal disturbances.”

Has the applicant’s consultant and/or agency consulted with NOAA in consideration of monk seal and turtle habitat needs along the Punalu‘u coastline before submitting the DEA? If we know that threatened or endangered marine species may be present at the affected site, how does the DEA justify that there will be an AFONSI in regards to our impact to marine species, whose habitat may be negatively affected by coastal development?

Problematic Section: In Section 3.10 Traffic and Roadways, the DEA notes that “the construction of the shoreline revetment will not alter public roadways. While the project is not expected to have significant traffic impacts, the following mitigation measures are recommended for optimal traffic conditions during construction: 1) construction activities and construction material or waste should be located and stored away from vehicular traffic. Sight lines for drivers on the roadway should be carefully maintained. 2) Trucks delivering construction material and disposing of construction waste should be scheduled on weekdays during times of non-peak commuter periods (9:00 AM to 3:00 PM).

Discussion and Questions regarding Section 3.5: The two-lane Kamehameha Highway that will be used to bring in the necessary machinery, equipment, and supplies for the revetment project is highly utilized and frequently congested. This highway is the only access point to the Ko‘olauloa District and Punalu‘u area. Will the applicant adhere to the proposed mitigation measures to locate and store construction activities and materials away from the vehicular traffic, maintain sight lines for drivers, and deliver and dispose of construction waste during the suggested times of 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM?

Problematic Section: In Section 3.13.2 Cultural Resources, the two Hawaiian traditional practitioners that were interviewed by Keala Pono in the Ethnographic Survey noted observed changes in the Punalu‘u area. They noted that “the beach has eroded; and fish, limu, and other resources are scarcer than in previous years.” In addition, they shared concerns about this shoreline revetment project: “One concern is that the project could affect the shoreline in Punalu‘u, possibly further eroding the surrounding lands. Another voiced concern was that the walls near the Kamehameha Schools beach lots were believed to have had a negative impact on the rest of the shoreline.”

Discussion and Questions regarding Section 3.13.2: How is the agency and/or applicant’s consultant responding to the concerns raised by both of the community residents interviewed that a) this project will erode the surrounding lands and b) shoreline hardening structures near the Kamehameha Schools beach lots have had a negative impact on the rest of the shoreline? Is there evidence that the shoreline adjacent to the Kamehameha Schools beach lots have not been negatively impacted by shoreline hardening structures to justify the DEA (AFONSI) for this new revetment project?

Problematic Section: In Section 3.15 Potential Cumulative and Secondary Impacts, the DEA notes that “Erosion has occurred for decades along the Punalu‘u Shoreline. Due to the shoreline protection of properties to the south, the beach area has retreated. Placement of a sloping rock revetment at the subject properties will help to stabilize this shoreline section and will not affect shoreline processes at other sections of the Punalu‘u shoreline. Additionally, the action to stabilize these properties will reduce future erosion threats to Kamehameha Highway at this location.”

Discussion regarding Section 3.15: It is widely understood that coastal hardening deflects wave energy and causes erosion elsewhere. Shoreline hardening structures are notorious for their documented contribution to the loss of beaches throughout Hawai‘i. For example, an estimated 25% of the length of beaches on O‘ahu has been permanently lost due to seawalls and shoreline hardening, along with many miles of shoreline on Maui.

The DEA asserts that shoreline protection to the south has resulted in retreating beach. How then can the DEA rationalize that this project will “help stabilize the shoreline section” and promote sand accretion, when there is evidence that protection measures to the south have resulted in the beach area retreating?

Problematic section: In Section 5.0 Plans and Policies, the DEA discusses the project’s consistency with applicable land use policies set forth in the State Environmental Policy, Hawai‘i State Plan, State Land Use Law, State Coastal Zone Management Program, City and County of Honolulu General Plan, City and County of Honolulu Land Use Ordinance, City and County of Honolulu Ko‘olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan, and Special Management Area.

Discussion and Questions regarding Section 5.0: The DEA completely omits a critical policy that applies to the Shoreline Setback Variance Permit that needs to be granted to complete the proposed project. We remind the Department of Planning and Permitting of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu, Chapter 23 Sec. 23-1.2 regarding the purpose of Shoreline Setbacks:

(a)  It is a primary policy of the city to protect and preserve the natural shoreline, especially sandy beaches; to protect and preserve public pedestrian access laterally along the shoreline and to the sea; and to protect and preserve open space along the shoreline. It is also a secondary policy of the city to reduce hazards to property from coastal floods.

(b)  To carry out these policies and to comply with the mandate stated in HRS Chapter 205A, it is the specific purpose of this chapter to establish standards and to authorize the department of land utilization to adopt rules pursuant to HRS Chapter 91, which generally prohibit within the shoreline area any construction or activity which may adversely affect beach processes, public access along the shoreline, or shoreline open space.

(c)  Finally, it is the purpose of this chapter to name the director of land utilization as the council’s designee to exercise some of the powers and functions granted, and duties imposed, pursuant to HRS Chapter 205A, Part III.

The Department of Planning and Permitting has disregarded their responsibility under this law for several decades as they approve the armoring of shoreline all over O‘ahu. It is unreasonable to assume that this new revetment is going to meet the objectives of the law when the same type of construction has resulted in the exact opposite in multiple locations around the island.

Why was the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu, Chapter 23 Sec. 23-1.2 regarding Shoreline Setbacks not included in the discussion of the DEA? How does the Department of Planning and Permitting address our concerns that they are not fulfilling the primary policy of the city regarding shoreline setbacks?

Please address the above concerns in any subsequent EA.  It is in the public’s interest to protect our shorelines and access to our beaches.  The existing land use and zoning rules are designed to guarantee the public’s trust interests and must be observed.


Jodi Malinoski

Sierra Club O‘ahu Group Coordinator

O‘ahu General Plan

Aloha, below are the comments the O‘ahu Group submitted in regards to the 2nd draft of the O‘ahu General Plan. The O‘ahu General Plan sets forth the long-range objectives and policies for the general welfare and, together with the regional development plans, provides a direction and framework to guide the programs and activities of the City and County of Honolulu. More information about the O‘ahu General Plan can be found at the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting website here.

To: HHF Planners
Attn: O‘ahu General Plan

Aloha HHF Planners,

On behalf of our 8,000 members and supporters on O‘ahu, mahalo for considering the comments of the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group regarding the O‘ahu General Plan draft. In general, it should be said that we are pleased with the proposed changes in the General Plan update as many of the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group’s concerns have been given attention. We found the addition of new areas focusing on climate change, sea level rise and renewables to be positive inclusions. Additionally, we welcome the increased focus on mass transit, transit-oriented development, and an Age-Friendly/Complete Streets development approach. Finally, stronger language surrounding the urban growth boundary, preserving the character of certain neighborhoods while still recognizing the need for density, and the inclusion of a substantial amount of language promoting agriculture are appreciated. We hope that the language proposed in these areas is preserved in the final version. However, we do have some concerns.

First, in the Economy section (Objective B, Policy 7) language has been changed from “manage” to “facilitate” with regards to secondary resort areas and the specific destinations of Ko‘olina, Turtle Bay, Hoakalei, Mākaha and La‘ie. The Sierra Club O‘ahu Group is concerned with the stronger encouragement of development in these areas which we believe to be inappropriate. We see this as promoting development outside the primary urban areas and providing a justification for intruding in currently undeveloped areas. This will necessitate further investment of scarce taxpayer resources on infrastructure in rural areas. Given that the city is investing 8 billion dollars on infrastructure in order to concentrate development on the Leeward coast, we believe this encouragement of development in the rural area to be misguided. Moreover, encouraging such increased visitor activity in the Country will place further stresses in areas that have already reached their capacity. For these reasons we strongly recommend that the draft revert to the original language to “manage” these activities.

On a related note, other sections of the General Plan draft have useful language that should be added to the Economy section when evaluating maintenance requirements and proposed construction in resort areas and Waikiki, especially in relation to sea level rise. The Housing and Communities section (Objective C, Policy 6), the Transportation And Utilities section (Objective D, policy 5) and the Public Safety and Community Resilience section (Objective A, Policy 2) contains language addressing the proper evaluation of variables surrounding climate change and development such as: “topography that could be difficult or dangerous, sewer capacity, utility capacity, extreme cost and potential environmental damage.” In these sections, these variables are framed around simply being bad growth that shouldn’t be encouraged or which could potentially incur the City large costs – this framing of perspective should be taken for our tourism economy. This is especially true when talk of establishing beach preservation funds which would use transfer of development rights (TDR) and purchase of development rights (PDR) which could be exorbitantly more costly for the City/State if not guided by language and policy which expects these same considerations from the tourism industry. The addition of this language could help prevent significant financial cost and damage to the environment.

In the Physical Development and Urban Design section, the new addition of Policy 6 on page 50 allows for short-term vacation rentals in TOD areas – the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group does not support this. The O‘ahu Group understands the many values of TOD, one of those being its power to control sprawling and uncontrolled growth by placing our residents closer to where they live, work and play; taking away more of the available area in TOD neighborhoods and giving it to non-residents does not facilitate this. This type of activity should be strictly prohibited outside of our resort areas and Waikiki, as it is counterproductive.

Language relating to deregulation exists in both the Housing Communities section (Objective A, Policy 2) as well as in The Economy section (Objective C, Policy 4). The O‘ahu Group recognizes that some regulation is indeed burdensome, especially for the farmers mentioned in Objective C, Policy 4. We strongly support an increase in local agricultural production, however we would welcome additional language to clarify that this increased activity would not fly in the face of environmental impact, pesticide, water quality, and invasive species regulations.

Finally, the Energy section (Objective A, Policy 6) promotes an impressive suite of renewable energy resources and the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group supports the emphasis on producing renewable energy for O‘ahu. However, it should be mentioned that with regards to geothermal and its listed prospects in both Wai‘anae and Windward, the national Sierra Club supports geothermal, but not hydraulic stimulation or “fracking” which the newest forms of geothermal now use. If language can be added that steers O‘ahu away from this process which can pollute groundwater and increase seismic activity, then it should be done.

Again, the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group thanks you for your time and interest in our comments. If you have additional questions please do not hesitate to contact our staff and board at your convenience.

Elliot Van Wie

Executive Committee Member, Conservation Chair & Smart Growth Chair, Sierra Club O‘ahu Group

Haiku Stairs Comments

Aloha, below are the public comments the O‘ahu Group submitted in response to the Environmental Impact Statement Prep Notice (EISPN) in regards to the future of Haiku Stairs, or the “Stairway to Heaven”:

To: OEQC and G70

The Sierra Club O‘ahu Group is concerned about the Haiku Stairs being torn down. Here are our comments and questions.


1) The Haiku Stairs should be preserved. It is well-known and attracts both locals and visitors. It is unique — no other hiking trail on Oahu is remotely similar. There are fantastic views all along the way and the stairs have a long history. To quote a recent editorial by Vernon Ansdell and Jay Silberman, the stairs “have been determined to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, because of their integral role in the defense of the Pacific during WWII. Experts in botany and natural history have described the Stairs hike as unique in the Hawaiian islands, for several reasons. It would be an incalculable loss of an irreplaceable recreational, educational, historic and cultural resource.”

2) Managing the stairs has been done before with little or no difficulty. Again quoting Silberman — “Think about what was involved when the U.S. Coast Guard Omega Station did it in the 1980s: hikers parked in the parking lot next to the main building, filled out a sign-in sheet, and walked over to the Stairs. That’s it. The station and parking lot were open during the day, so no one had a reason to park on neighbors’ lawns and sneak up at night. During the six years that the Stairs were open, an estimated 20,000 people a year climbed it, with no supervision, and no impact on the neighbors.”

3) No one has been killed or seriously injured while hiking the stairs. This is an amazing record for a trail that has been drawing hikers for over three decades. People have been very careful because of the obvious danger if they fell off the stairs.

4) The City spent almost $800,000 fixing the stairs (and replacing the railings) over a decade ago. It has spent about $170,000 a year for the past several years to post guards at the gate near the end of Haiku Road. All of this money should go to making the stairs available to the public! And if the stairs are torn down, it will cost the city almost 3 million dollars. This money could be used to create a hiking trail that would draw tens of thousands of people a year without annoying the residents who live near the trailhead.

5) If the City won’t maintain the stairs, perhaps another government agency will. DLNR comes to mind. They have a lot of experience in managing trails (think Na Ala Hele). The stairs lead up to the Koolau Summit Trail (KST) and could be part of an all-day hiking experience unlike any other in the state. Up the stairs, along the KST, down Middle Ridge and out along the Kamananui Valley road would be an unparalleled recreational experience.

Another possibility: again quoting Ansdell and Silberman, “If BWS can’t be troubled to manage the Stairs, hire a contractor to do it, and collect entrance fees to cover all operating, maintenance, security and management costs, as well as all potential liability. The state collects hundreds of thousands of dollars per year from entrance fees to Diamond Head State Monument.”

6) The concerns the City has expressed about liability are overblown (again, no deaths or serious injuries in over 3 decades of hiking by everyone from first time hikers to experienced mountaineers). Liability should not be the primary consideration in deciding whether to preserve the stairs or not. The State’s experience with Diamond Head State Park and Manoa Falls Trail (the two most hiked trails on Oahu) should put to rest any concerns that the City has.

7) Oahu’s trails are being inundated by an unprecedented number of hikers. We had almost 9,000,000 visitors to the state in 2016. The situations at Maunawili Falls Trail and Kuliouou Ridge Trail and Mariner’s Ridge indicate that we need more, not fewer, popular trails. Haiku Stairs could be an attraction that helps alleviate the foot traffic on our most popular trails, thus taking some of the pressure off a resource that was not made to handle so many people.


1) Have other governmental agencies (besides the Board of Water Supply) been asked about their interest in “taking over” the stairs?

2) Have non-profits been asked about their interest in managing the stairs (for example, the Friends of Haiku Stairs)?

3) Has anyone from the City hiked similar trails in other states or foreign countries? Have they seen how those states and countries managed that recreational resource?

4) Has the City made an offer to Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to swap land that can be used for housing for the land that DHHL owns in Haiku Valley (courtesy of the US government when Coast Guard Omega Station closed down) and which is unsuitable for housing?

5) Has the City considered selling the stairs to a third party (such as Trust for Public Land) which would transfer the stairs to another government entity or non-profit or public-private partnership (PPP)?

6) Has the City considered reviving the Coast Guard method from the 80’s — i.e. renovating the parking lot and main building of the former Coast Guard facility to allow hikers to park there so that neighbors would not be inconvenienced?

7) Has the City considered using the Diamond Head State Park model — charging for parking ($5 per vehicle) or walking in ($1)? These monies could be used exclusively to maintain the stairs and provide a great visitor experience.

8) There is a serious shortage of funding to protect and maintain our natural resources. With almost 9,000,000 visitors last year, DLNR needs more resources just to maintain, much less improve, the visitor experience. This doesn’t even count the number of locals who also use the resource base. Has the City considered turning the stairs over to the State to use as a revenue source (similar to Diamond Head)?

9) Has the City considered convening a meeting of interested parties in resolving this situation? Representatives from the Board of Water Supply, DHHL, DLNR, the Friends of Haiku Stairs, Sierra Club, Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, Trust for Public Land, City attorneys, State attorneys should sit down and talk to each other about possible solutions. This would cost very little and some innovative ideas might come out of this get-together. It is worth a try. The Haiku Stairs is a unique resource and definitely worth saving.

The Sierra Club looks forward to your response. And mahalo for this opportunity to share our mana’o with you.

Randy Ching
Sierra Club O‘ahu Group

Bill 59- O‘ahu’s Plastic Ban Ban 2.0

Tomorrow, Honolulu’s City Council will have its final hearing for Bill 59 (2016) CD2, FD1 – an ordinance that will “close the loophole” on O‘ahu’s plastic bag ban. We have been sharing action alerts on social media to encourage our members to submit testimony in support of the FD1 (1st floor draft) which is the preferred language for Bill 59. Below is the testimony the O‘ahu Group submitted in support of Bill 59 (2016), CD2, FD1:

May 9, 2017-

Aloha Chair Menor, Vice Chair Anderson, and members of the Honolulu City Council,

On behalf of the Sierra Club O`ahu Group’s 8,000 members and supporters and as a participating organization in the Rise Above Plastics Coalition, we are in STRONG SUPPORT of Bill 59 (2016) CD2, FD1, which will implement a 10 cent fee on all check out bags at grocery stores and phase out the thicker “reusable” plastic bags in 2020. This FD1 balances both business and environmental concerns: the stores have adequate time to use their stock of thick plastic bags and will receive money from customers to invest in paper or cloth bags, while our community moves towards eliminating plastic pollution and promoting sustainable consumer behavior. When the Council passed the first plastic bag ban there were unintended consequence of allowing thick plastic bags to be considered “reusable.” Bill 59 (2016) CD2, FD1, will effectively eliminate these types of plastic bags on O`ahu to help reduce cleanup costs, save vital resources, and protect our marine environment from plastic pollution.

We respectfully cannot support the CD2 as it is currently written. It creates more confusion and ambiguity about what types of bags are allowed in the future, particularly by allowing “non-recyclable bags” for prepared foods, beverages, and bakery items. It also does not phase out the thicker plastic bags or compostable bags, which was the intention of Bill 59 (2016). We would prefer to not have to revisit the plastic bag issue another time. Passage of the FD1 would successfully accomplish the intention of the initial plastic bag ban: to eliminate plastic bags on our island.

The Sierra Club O`ahu Group advocates for a reduction of all plastic bags – regardless of their thickness. If we cannot eliminate thick plastic bags in Bill 59 (2016) and truly move towards sustainability and waste reduction, we ask that the Council defer this measure until better a consensus between the Council, environmental groups, and industry representatives can be reached. Grocery stores can already impose a 10 cent fee for checkout bags without passing this bill. We cannot support a bill that will impose a mandatory fee on customers if it is not coupled with language to phase out the thick plastic bags; the point of having a fee on bags is to encourage a reusable mindset, not to help grocery stores purchase more plastic bags.


Sierra Club O`ahu Group


Congrats to Josh Stanbro for becoming Honolulu’s Chief Resiliency Officer

Mayor Caldwell, in partnership with 100 Resilient Cities, appoints Joshua W. Stanbro to be Honolulu’s first Chief Resilience Officer

Stanbro will lead island-wide efforts to build holistic resilience to the social, physical and economic challenges that are an increasing part of the 21st century

100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation – is dedicated to building resilience in cities around the world; Honolulu is a founding member of $164M effort

HONOLULU — Mayor Kirk Caldwell has appointed Joshua W. Stanbro to be Honolulu’s first Chief Resilience Officer. Stanbro will lead city and county-wide resilience building efforts to help O‘ahu prepare for, withstand, and bounce back from the ‘shocks’ – catastrophic events like hurricanes, fires, and floods – and ‘stresses’ – slow-moving disasters like water shortages, homelessness, and unemployment, which are increasingly part of 21st century life.

As Chief Resilience Officer, Stanbro will serve as part of Mayor Caldwell’s cabinet and oversee the development and implementation of a comprehensive Resilience Strategy for the city. He will also lead the new Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency, created by voters who approved a charter amendment in November 2016.

“Josh’s extensive knowledge of environmental issues, infrastructure, cultural land preservation, and community issues at federal, state, and city levels ensures he will be an effective advocate on issues surrounding climate change, resilience, and sustainability here on O‘ahu,” said Mayor Caldwell.

Appointing a Chief Resilience Officer is an essential element of Honolulu’s resilience building partnership with 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation. The 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) organization is part of a $164M commitment by The Rockefeller Foundation to build urban resilience in 100 cities around the world. The position will be fully funded by 100RC for two years.

“I’m honored to lead this new Office and looking forward to working with Mayor Caldwell, the Honolulu City Council, and our communities to make O‘ahu stronger and safer,” said Stanbro. “I’m also proud that Honolulu was selected to be part of the 100 Resilient Cities initiative and that our voters overwhelmingly approved tackling head-on the tough climate change issues that threaten an island community. This is the right time for local governments to take a leadership role.”

Honolulu’s resilience initiative includes a unique focus on coastal and economic challenges in a city increasingly affected by climate change impacts and infrastructure issues, along with a clear eye toward other potential shocks the island may be exposed to. Disparities in access to housing and exposure to natural hazards threaten community cohesion and weaken Honolulu’s overall resilience. Stanbro will therefore be charged with fostering an island-wide dialogue about the most pressing vulnerabilities, helping the city to unite and build the collective capacity for change. O‘ahu voters clearly recognized these threats when they voted to establish an office dedicated to addressing these issues and focusing on fostering sustainability.

Hawai‘i Community Foundation CEO Kelvin Taketa lauded Stanbro’s work for the organization.

“For the past eight years, the Hawai‘i Community Foundation has been fortunate to have Josh Stanbro lead our environmental and sustainability programs,” said Taketa. “During his tenure, Josh has been an established thought leader for sustainability and an important collaborator for Hawai‘i’s nonprofit community. His commitment to bridge-building and collaboration make him an outstanding choice to lead the city’s new Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency. At HCF, we are proud of Josh’s many accomplishments and look forward to partnering with him, along with the Mayor and the city, to achieve greater change and make Honolulu a more resilient place for all of us.”

The Chief Resilience Officer is an innovative feature of 100RC’s resilience building program. Stanbro will work within city government to break down existing barriers at the local level, account for pre-existing resilience plans, and create partnerships, alliances and financing mechanisms that will address the resilience vulnerabilities of all city residents, particularly among low-income and vulnerable populations.

“Josh Stanbro joins a network of peers from cities across the globe that will share best practices and surface innovative thinking,” said Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities. “Stanbro will become a global leader in resilience, and will be an asset for Honolulu and other cities around the world.”

Stanbro will receive personnel and technical support provided by 100RC; and utilize resilience building tools from 100RC’s Platform Partners in the private, public, academic, and NGO sectors.

About Joshua W. Stanbro
Josh Stanbro brings a wealth of sustainability experience and a track record of developing partnerships to his new role within the administration. He has served as a Program Director for the Hawai‘i Community Foundation since 2009, where he led the Hawai‘i Fresh Water Initiative and the Community Restoration Partnership. He previously served as Project Manager for The Trust for Public Land-Hawai‘i, where he completed the acquisition of over 25,000 acres of land for preservation in perpetuity. He has worked in various roles with Envision Hawai‘i, the Coastal/Estuarine Land Conservation Planning Advisory Group, the South Kona-Ka‘u Coastal Conservation Task Force, and the Hawai’i Forest Stewardship Committee. Stanbro earned a BA from Claremont McKenna College and his Juris Doctor from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley. He spent a visiting semester at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa where he earned a Cali Award in Native Hawaiian Rights.

About 100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation
100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) helps cities around the world become more resilient to social, economic, and physical challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. 100RC provides this assistance through: funding for a Chief Resilience Officer in each of our cities who will lead the resilience efforts; resources for drafting a resilience strategy; access to private sector, public sector, academic, and NGO resilience tools; and membership in a global network of peer cities to share best practices and challenges. For more information, visit:

Honolulu’s New Office of Climate Change

Every ten years the Honolulu Charter Commission proposes changes on the City’s Charter, or Honolulu’s constitution. Twenty proposed changes made it to the November 2016 ballot such as Question 6: a City Charter Amendment that would create an “Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency”. The O‘ahu Group was ecstatic when majority of residents voted yes on this Charter Amendment because we are already seeing the impacts of climate change, yet policies to combat these effects have not been a focus at the city level. Passage of this amendment shows community support to prioritize sustainability and resiliency in a transparent matter.

Here are some of the things the O‘ahu Group suggests the city considers when creating this office:

  • Holistic: this office should create and implement a comprehensive climate change plan and resiliency strategy tailored for Honolulu; incorporating all major climate change impacts, potential catastrophic events, and other social, economic, and environmental stressors into this strategy.
  • Action Planned: this office should prioritize sustainability projects consistent with the resiliency strategy to help adapt to sea level rise and plan development accordingly, end our dependence on fossil fuels, protect our natural resources and open space, and increase our food self-sufficiency.
  • Inclusive: this office should effectively convene city departments, policy makers, scientists, and community members. The staff should work on a variety of tasks: from implementing the resiliency strategy through policy and projects, to educating the public about climate change and promoting a vision of a resilient future, and engaging stakeholders to support a plan of action, including future revenues for major infrastructure work.

We believe that the formation of this office will help facilitate discussion about the impacts of climate change, promote environmental stewardship, and initiate sustainability projects on O‘ahu. Seven positions are proposed for this office in the Mayor’s 2018 budget with funding for 5 requested, including: a Chief Resiliency Officer/Executive Director, a Deputy Director, Secretary, Coastal Project Manager, and Energy Coordinator. The Chief Resiliency Officer position will be funded by a two year grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, but the other positions will need to be approved by the City Council during budget hearings from April to June. Eventually, we hope the office will be expanded to include a few more key positions, such as a grants manager, a communications coordinator, a food policy coordinator, and a water conservation coordinator. We’ll be lobbying Councilmembers to support this office, so stay tuned on how you can get involved. This is an exciting time for Honolulu, mahalo for your support!