Maui News

Zoning change for Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute’s proposed marine conservation center

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The Planning and Sustainable Land Use Committee will discuss a proposed resolution and bill for a zoning change for construction of a marine conservation and research center by the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute in Mā‘alaea, Maui.

The topic surfaces for discussion in committee at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022.

Councilmember Kelly Takaya King who introduced Resolution 22-253, said it will require review from the Maui Planning Commission and the South Maui Advisory Committee. The Climate Action, Resilience and Environment Committee, chaired by King, received a presentation on the project from the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute and community feedback on Nov. 2.

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“I would like to thank Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute representative Tapani Vuori and consultant Will Spence for providing information about the importance of this zoning change to support construction of this  facility,” said King, who holds the council seat for the South Maui residency area. “I want everyone to know as much as they can about what is being proposed. The potential of this project is extremely exciting, for our biodiversity and our economic diversity.”

The facility would allow the nonprofit’s work to expand and would include a sea turtle hospital, a coral nursery, research laboratories and educational classrooms. King said the presentation showed that with the additional capacity, the institute could bolster its marine research and education efforts and broaden its sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation operations, as well as its coral reef restoration and conservation efforts.

The new facility would attract and house visiting scientists and could enable Maui to foster local economic development and career opportunities, she said. The nonprofit has outgrown its current facilities. 

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“When the federal government closed their on-island facility at Pearl Harbor at the onset of COVID-19, we became the only facility in the State of Hawaiʻi that is actually able to respond to injured sea turtles,” said Vuori, president and director of Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute.

King is in Egypt, where she participated in the first week of COP27, the global climate conference, and is touring in Cairo. She is hopeful the timing will enable her to attend the committee meeting virtually.

Community members are invited to provide written and verbal testimony at Wednesday morning’s committee meeting. To submit oral testimony by phone, please call (408) 915-6290 and enter meeting code 149 341 846 or visit MauiCounty.us/agendas for more information on testifying.

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The meeting will be available to view live on the Maui County Council’s Facebook page, on cable television via Akakū Channel 53, and at MauiCounty.us. For more information, contact committee staff at [email protected] or (808) 270-7838.

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