Heavy Hitters

State and Federal agencies weigh-in on La`au DEIS.

By Brandon Roberts

As Molokai Properties Limited (MPL) prepares the final La`au Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the State Land Use Commission (LUC) hearings, several governmental agencies submitted comments on the short-comings of the draft document.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL), Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) all had heavy criticism for the DEIS.

Water is the piko of Molokai sustainability. The DEIS dedicates hundreds of pages to prove the development will be insignificant to the Molokai aquifer, as well as native Hawaiians. The comments provided by all three agencies point out inadequate water data, and most importantly, who has the right to the water.


In early February, the Molokai Planning Commission (MoPC) requested the USGS comment on MPL’s Draft DEIS for the La`au development.

The USGS challenged MPL’s data, pointing out 17 substantial discrepancies, including claims that pumping one million gallons of water a day from the Kakalahale Well will not draw down DHHL wells near-by. The USGS found statements in the DEIS contradictory to their past studies, and requested MPL verify data and explain ambivalent terms.

The USGS is currently building a three-dimensional supply and demand model of Molokai’s water, in cooperation with the Molokai Water Working group. MoPC Chairman DeGray Vanderbilt said the USGS is “looked to as a good, independent resource.”


DHHL uses Act 325 of Hawaiian Law as the standard that MPL must achieve. The department said the DEIS water findings are not a worst-case scenario, and the model MPL used to gather data is inadequate. DHHL recommends the LUC should not look at the DEIS until the USGS comprehensive study is completed, which will reportedly take three years.

Hawaii Act 325 says the state is to provide essential resources to DHHL, especially water, necessary for native Hawaiian beneficiaries to utilize the lands set aside for them. DHHL finds the DEIS is “neither comprehensive nor complete,” when measured to Act 325.

DHHL said MPL did not satisfy the legislative intent of water rights to Hawaiians and indicated that the DEIS findings may indicate MPL’s water needs cannot be accommodated without affecting DHHL’s water rights.


OHA’s comments claim unforeseeable impacts from the cumulative effects of more residents and tourists on Molokai. OHA’s submission included a passage from the state constitution that the state shall protect all rights exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes to the descendents of native Hawaiians.

OHA concluded that important questions remain unanswered, and although the new DEIS is an improvement over the previous, it is still does not specifically address critical issues. OHA said MPL findings were contradictory, preposterous, and a violation of existing laws.

The comments prompted OHA Trustee Collette Machado to submit a press release calling the comments “sarcastic and condescending”. Machado said OHA misinterpreted the document, and that the inclusion of La`au development in the community-based plan is the best strategy to keep Molokai, Molokai.

Though MPL closed DEIS comments on Feb. 22, they still have to fight the current. With substantiated criticism from various state and federal agencies, the LUC must objectively compare these with the MPL findings for a proper decision. Molokai’s future will look very different depending on the La`au decision.


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