Council greenlights eminent domain for Central Maui Landfill expansion

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Central Maui Landfill. File Photo. PC: JD Pells

“Hallelujah,” was spoken by Alice L. Lee, the Chair of the Maui County Council, after the culmination of a month-long deliberation. The Council in its meeting Friday authorized eminent domain proceedings to gain legal access to land planned for the expansion of the Central Maui Landfill.

The land includes nearly 20-acre former quarry site and will be used for the permanent disposal of toxic ash and debris from the Lahaina wildfire.

Since at least 2017, the county has tried to acquire 19.66 acres, known as Lot 1B of the Central Maui Sanitary Landfill Subdivision, for landfill expansion from Komar Maui Properties, which bought the property in December 2015 from Alexander & Baldwin for $700,000. The county is now authorized to obtain the property at an estimated price of $830,000.


Initially, the Council brought the resolution to the floor on March 7 and planned to return for a final reading on March 22. Instead, the Council passed the resolution on first reading on March 22 and approved it for second reading on Friday, April 5 – two weeks behind schedule due to it being sent to the Government, Relations, Ethics and Transparency Committee for further review.

Councilmember Tamara Paltin, who moved to adopt the resolution, said its approval is a “big relief” for the residents of Lahaina, the Maui County Council and the US Army Corps of Engineers, referring to the delays in passing the resolution.

Even with a two week delay, the Army Corps continued to clear Lahaina properties of debris and haul it temporarily to Olowalu. Councilmember Yuki Lei Sugimura said that the Army Corps even increased the number of crews to meet timelines. “If the community thought that us discussing this stopped the work in Lahaina, it didn’t,” she said.


At today’s meeting, Paltin commended some community members and Department of Environmental Management Director Shayne Agawa for urging the county to move quickly.

“It is a very emotional time for West Maui right now,” said Paltin. “Any threats to stop the progress being made is taken very seriously by the community.”

According to Paltin, in earlier meetings, Agawa had said that the county plans to pursue waste-to-energy to reduce the rate at which it expands the Central Maui Landfill, but that now was not the time to vet various technologies or accept bids from companies.


“For now, we’re on a timeline that if we took a break to try to vet all of the technologies and go with one, we would probably lose the support of the Army Corps for the transportation and tipping fee at their expense,” said Paltin.

At the meeting, Mark Wingate, FEMA’s Debris Task Force manager, reassured the Council for the record that it remained committed to hauling the debris from Olowalu to Central Maui.

“We remain completely committed to hauling the debris from the existing temporary debris storage site to the permanent disposal site,” Wingate said. “We continue to appreciate the county, state and federal partnerships that have been forged in this collaborative process, as well as the opportunity to continue moving the debris from Lahaina, an uncontrolled environment, to a controlled and managed environment.”

Today, few testified in opposition before the resolution went to a vote. One community member said he was concerned with the impact on air and soil quality. “Everything downwind is now pilau,” he said. He recommended that the county mummify the debris like a “burrito” to send it to Montana.

JD Pells
JD is a news reporter for Maui Now. He has contributed stories to TCU 360, Fort Worth Report and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. JD interned at Maui Now in 2021. He graduated from the Bob Schieffer College of Communication at Texas Christian University, with a bachelor's in journalism and business in 2022, before coming back home to Maui with the purpose of serving his community. He can be reached at
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