Major 200-acre industrial project planned for Lānaʻi gets key approval from state LUC
February 18, 2022, 6:30 AM HST
* Updated February 19, 8:40 AM
In approving a key document, the state Land Use Commission helped pave the way for Pūlama Lānaʻi’s proposed 200-acre industrial park on Lānaʻi — billed by project officials as a catalyst to diversify the economy beyond luxury tourism.
The commission voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to accept the second environmental assessment and issue a finding of no significant impact for the plan, called the Miki Basin Industrial Park. The state district will now be changed from agricultural to urban to allow for the development, which still needs certain approvals and permits.
Located near Lānaʻi Airport and Hawaiian Electric’s power plant, Miki industrial park would hold 127 acres of renewable energy projects, 20 acres of infrastructure work, 12.5 acres to move an existing asphalt plant and 14.5 acres to relocate a concrete operation and to store construction materials. Another 26 acres would have “new industrial uses.” It would be developed in stages over two decades and cost roughly $79 million, according to the project’s second environmental assessment.
Public testimony on Miki industrial park was mixed, with the majority testifying in support of Pūlama’s plan.
However, concerns over water usage and supply have continued to surface over the years of project discussion. Also, testifiers asked why more detail on projected uses and development timelines couldn’t be provided.
“Two hundred acres permanently zoned from ag to urban on any other island would probably be a very big deal,” testified Lānaʻi resident Sally Kaye.
“I would ask the commission to apply strict scrutiny when, as now, so much of the maximum possible uses for the 200 acres remains unknown and when, as here, the party who wants to develop also happens to control the water delivery and supply systems,” she added.
Lānaʻi native Diane Preza supported the project, saying that it will help diversify the economy and provide much-needed commercial space.
“Lānaʻi folks are always talking about looking for commercial space; right now there is not really any available,” she testified.
Historically Lānaʻi’s economy relied on pineapple. After billionaire Oracle founder Larry Ellison purchased about 98 percent of the island in 2012, millions were pumped into upgrading and expanding Lānaʻi resorts and their offerings.
Saying Miki industrial park is key to diversifying the economy away from luxury tourism, project officials echoed that the plan fulfills residents’ requests outlined in the Lānaʻi community plan.
“The (Lānaʻi) community plan started six months after I started my job 10 years ago,” said Kurt Matsumoto, Pūlama president. “So for me this is a 10-year journey that allows us to now be before you with this request. This is not a really quick or not well-considered project.”
They also repeated a commitment to stay within projected water needs.
Commission Chairman Jonathan Likeke Scheuer asked whether the commission can assume the overall water use for 200 acres will not exceed the estimated demand noted in the environmental assessment.
“We believe so, correct,” said Keiki-Pua Dancil, Pūlama’s senior vice president of government affairs and strategic planning.
“So thinking ahead, we could rely on the environmental assessment and the assumptions made around the future water demand in the environmental assessment in terms of potential conditions placed on this docket?” he asked.
“Yes, we would be OK with that,” she said.
“That’s very helpful,” Scheuer replied.
Acceptance of the final environmental assessment is one major hurdle in the approval and permitting process. Mandated by state law and triggered by the potential use of county or state lands or funds, an environmental assessment evaluates and provides information to the public and to decision makers on whether a proposed action has a significant environmental impact.
Commissioner Arnold Wong, who motioned for approval, said the final environmental assessment was sufficient and checked all the boxes. It doesn’t mean that he will support or deny the project in future decisions, and he said he wants to see phasing of the project, including what will happen in 10, 15 and 20 years.
“This is a big project,” he said.
Commission Vice Chairman Dan Giovanni said the report was sufficient, although “not perfect.”
“I find that the good faith commitment of Miss Dancil on two occasions within today’s hearing to limit the water use to be critical to my understanding of their commitment and critical to my support for this project going forward,” he said.
The 6-0 vote included commissioners Scheuer, Wong, Giovanni, Nancy Cabral, Edmund Aczon and Gary Y. Okuda.