Monday, November 16, 2009


DUMP-DA-DUMP-DUMP: Many on Kaua`i were left scratching their heads when Mayor Bernard Carvalho accepted his Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Landfill Site Selection recommendation to place the new county landfill in the middle of arguably the most financially productive ag land on the island, currently in use growing coffee for the Kaua`i Coffee brand.

But those who strongly oppose the project location, through no fault of their own, might miss their big opportunity to register their specific complaints and apprehensions in the proper manner if all they read was a Friday press release from the county announcing a “Public information meeting on landfill siting process”

It begins:

KALĀHEO – A public information meeting regarding the landfill siting process is scheduled on Thursday, Nov. 19.

The meeting will be held at the Kalāheo Elementary School cafeteria from 6 to 9 pm. A comprehensive look at the landfill siting process will be covered at the meeting including: the results of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Landfill Site Selection (MACLS) ranking process and the next steps in siting the new landfill. The presentation will be made by R.M. Towill, Inc., the consultant that conducted the MACLS process.

Ah- a nice little chat to let the public know what the plans are, eh?

You might think so unless you read the following paragraph carefully- and have been paying enough attention to the wily ways of governmental and some private entities in recent years.

There will be a question and answer period following the presentation to identify pertinent environmental issues that should be considered in preparation of the environmental impact statement for the project.

What that means is that if you don’t show up to the little “Q&A” you will have missed the all important opportunity to present testimony- legally know as a “scoping meeting”- regarding the issues that should be considered in the EIS that must be prepared for the landfill project to go forward.

When the National and various state Environmental Protection Acts were passed and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) became de rigor for covered projects, the main thing they were supposed to accomplish was to ensure that public testimony would drive the project.

But over the years the “playbook” for accomplishing this has evolved from holding open meetings where citizens are given opportunities to file up, one by one, to speak before the proposers and their peers on a given project, to the divide and conquer “public information meeting” that the county, like the rest of the country, uses these days.

When the first “draft EIS” is released what will be reflected in it- the items to be “mitigated”- will be limited for the most part to those gathered at this all important meeting. Then the public will be given one last chance to submit written testimony-usually within a short time frame of as little as 30 days (if you happen to hear about it)- to bring up matters that were missed during the “information”- read: scoping- meeting.

Then a “supplemental EIS” will be issued, accepted by the county and if you don’t like it you have a very short window to go to court to fight it (remember the Superferry and the reason Kauai couldn’t join the suit on Maui was that no one filed suit in time).

This has become “the” accepted methodology for preventing a dialogue regarding controversial issues.

But what many- like those ruing the fact that they “missed” the scoping meetings and in fact the whole process regarding the EIS on the bike-path boardwalk on Wailua Beach- don’t know is that, believe it or not, the new nation-wide methodology was established as a direct result of events right here on little Kaua`i.

In the 1980’s when the Navy wanted to shoot off a bunch of old, dilapidated “refurbished” Polaris Missiles as part of Ronnie Ray-Gun’s still unachievable “Star Wars” program at the Navy base (PMRF) in Mana, after citizen outrage forced Senator Dan Inouye to acquiesce to an EIS, a pubic hearing was held at the appropriately named War Memorial Convention Hall.

The place was packed for three days as thousands filed up to the microphone and told the attending military brass, face to face, where to shove their missiles. It galvanized a movement to opposed the program and eventually, although the Navy did mange to shoot off four of them. it was a miserable failure for the Navy.

But what they learned would change the whole way an EIS process is conducted.

The next time the Navy wanted to expand their program they invited people to a series of small, local “informational meetings” and where there were no microphones and in fact no stage area.

Rather they arranged to break up the crowd and shunt them to various “informational stations” where, after they listened to an interminable spiel from Navy personnel, they were permitted to talk one-on-one with someone with a notepad who wrote down what they thought they heard the person say.

There was no event, no dialogue and more importantly no press there to record the event... because there was no event for them to report.

This worked so well that few even knew what was happening before the EIS was signed sealed and delivered... and it initiated a “new way” of pushing through controversial projects with the least amount of controversy.

Frankly we think there’s no need for a new landfill given the fact that 100% of our non-greenwaste trash stream comes from the mainland and there are landfills there dying to take it back. And a good Zero Waste program would reduce the amount of true trash to be shipped out- at what appears to be a considerable savings if the Honolulu experience is exemplary- to a pittance.

So if you don’t like the Hobson’s Choice “Umi” location that those hell-bent on digging a big pit and throwing everything into it are recommending, you might want to attend this all important meeting Thursday.

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