Kamehameha Schools seeks after-the-fact permits for Keawa Nui improvements

| October 18, 2011 | 1 Comment

This aerial shot of Keawa Nui shows the extent of the fishpond on the East End. The smaller shrimp ponds can be seen on the right.


Keawa Nui Farms, 12 miles east on Kamehameha V Highway, has made numerous upgrades to its shrimp and fishpond facilities over the past 20 years. Unfortunately, neither the three tenants nor the owner of the property, Kamehameha Schools (KS), bothered to seek the proper permits when making these improvements.

KS approached the Molokai Planning Commission last Wednesday with concern over these violations as they sought Special Management Area after-the-fact permits and exemptions.

“Kamehameha Schools regrets the violations that occurred on the property and is committed to completing the after-the-fact permitting process,” said Kalani Fronda, asset land manager for KS.

Despite the apologies and the detailed slideshow presentation from KS, the commissioners were reluctant to grant permits and exemptions without more information on how the 150 acres of sensitive wetlands has been impacted over time.

The MoPC deferred any action until KS could show permits for the wells from the Maui County Water Commission as well as yield and usage reports. These wells supply water to the 16 circular fishponds carried through the raceways.

The MoPC also wanted more information on the wetlands mitigation plan. KS has been working on a wetlands restoration plan for five years and requested an SMA exemption for this work from the MoPC back in 2008.

KS representatives said they have gone through an extensive review process on the highway drainage culverts. The State Department of Transportation is attempting to increase the capacity of the two 24-inch culverts in order to prevent local flooding. The MoPC wanted a better description of the easement on the property in relation to the state and county jurisdictions on the highway.

The MoPC also wanted a more complete history of all the after-the-fact fees and penalties being assessed. KS has been seeking SMA permitting for five years. Since 2004, KS fines on the ponds are “in the seven figures,” according to a county inspector.

Commissioners wanted to also see the building plans before they approved anything. KS was seeking an after-the-fact exemption for the construction of a two-story, one bedroom, two bathroom 3,344 square-foot farm dwelling and carport on the property. This includes a 1,000 square-foot accessory storage structure and two 3,300 square-foot shade structures, dismantled and removed in 2007.

KS representatives admitted that putting together this documentation covering 20 years of work is not “an exact science.” However, they would replicate and seek out everything being requested.

The property was originally leased to Ohia Shrimp Farm in 1986 when the improvements were started. In 1995 D&J Ocean Farms took it over and completed six different property improvements over 12 years. These include the 1,680 square-foot storage building and hatchery, a 160 square-foot pump house structure and 2,200 linear feet of road improvements for which KS is seeking exemptions.

John Austin took over the property two years ago and is still using it for shrimp broodstock, seasonal tilapia and limu, livestock and educational tours. At this time no future improvements are being planned.

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