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Conservation Permitting Costs to Increase 500%

The Department of Land Natural Resources (DLNR) hasn’t made major changes to its conservation rules in 16 years. DLNR, through the Office of Conservation and Costal Lands, said the rules protect areas such as historic fishponds, shoreline setbacks, beaches, coral reefs, native species and other natural resources. Nearly 12,000 of the state’s two million protected acres are on Molokai, according to company sources.

“We’re trying to make the process more streamlined, but at the same time try to protect the resources,” said Samuel J. Lemmo, administrator of Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, at a meeting last week.

Rising Costs of Permits
The number of projects which require permitting will be reduced through the proposed changes, and although that means reduced paperwork, residents will see an increase in permit filing costs. Department permits will be raised from $50 to $250. The costs could exceed $1000 if a public hearing and travel is required.

Sam Pedro, a rancher on Molokai’s east end, believes DLNR is infringing on his rights.

“I don’t want to pay money to clean my stream. They’re making it harder for the poor guy,” Pedro said at last week’s meeting.

Other Changes to Permitting
The rules for fishponds were also revised by DLNR. For example, if work on an ancient fishpond exceeds more than fifty percent of the value of the pond, then an Environmental Assessment (EA) and management plan would have to be completed, Lemmo said.

Projects which would no longer require permitting include the removal of invasive species, minor fish pond repair, and the removal of dead trees, according to amendment proposal.

In other minor plans, such as the installation of emergency warning devices and lifeguard towers, a site plan approval would be required, but a permit would not.

Emergency situations are also given more clarity. Given the condition in which an emergency permit is needed, such as a hurricane, officials are given 30 days after the repair work to submit the emergency permit.

Good Intentions
The intention behind the rules is to make sure projects are in compliance with environmental protection, according to a department spokesperson. Protected lands in Hawaii need extra care. That’s why the Department of Land and Natural Resources are making sure conservation continues by updating its rules.

“Permits make people think before they take action,” said Wally Jennings, a Molokai resident and district conservationist for the Department of Agriculture.

Lemmo was among officials to present the suggested changes, after an initial round of meetings was held last summer. Many Molokai residents at a meeting in July, 2010 expressed concern about the cultural impacts of the rules. Traditional methods of restoring and maintaining fishponds, for example, are not in DLNR’s current rules.

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