Comptroller: Keauhou aquifer designation could impact judiciary complex

The comptroller for the state Department of Accounting and General Services has joined the lineup of opposition to placing the Keauhou aquifer under the control of the state’s water commission.

ADVERTISING


The comptroller for the state Department of Accounting and General Services has joined the lineup of opposition to placing the Keauhou aquifer under the control of the state’s water commission.

In a letter late last month to William Aila, chairman of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Comptroller Dean Seki expressed concern about the impacts of a state water management area on the long anticipated Kona Judiciary Complex.

“The Kona Judiciary Complex will be adversely impacted by the designation,” he wrote. “The combined cumulative effect of the USFWS endangered species habitat designation and proposed Keauhou ASA designation could potentially cripple the local economy and future planned developments within the Kona Urban (area) for many years.”

Until the justification for a new state permitting program is clearer, the state Commission on Water Resource Management should simply monitor building permits approved by the county, Seki suggested.

“This can be used to estimate the total amount of potable water daily usage from the Keauhou ASA for future planned developments within the Kona area,” he wrote.

The complex will use an estimated 23,500 gallons a day, less than 0.1 percent of the aquifer’s sustained yield of 38 million gallons a day, Seki noted.

The judiciary complex received $35 million from the Legislature over the past two sessions. Bids for the estimated $90 million project are scheduled to open no later than June 30, 2016. The building will be constructed north of Makalapua Shopping Center in Kailua-Kona. The long-awaited complex will consolidate West Hawaii judiciary functions, which are now scattered among subpar facilities.

The National Park Service petitioned last fall to place the Keauhou aquifer under the control of the state commission. It is not clear what level of scrutiny CWRM would require of existing permits if it does indeed vote next month to pursue the designation. More than 10,000 Department of Water Supply accounts and permits for 12 county wells are likely to receive some level of examination, DWS officials say. Existing users will have one year to file for a permit to continue drawing the water they already use. After that, new permits will be considered, according to the Department of Water Supply.

Any delay in the bid opening date or construction start date for the judiciary complex will have a negative impact on court users and increase development costs, Seki wrote. A U.S. Fish & Wildlife plan to designate 19,000 acres as critical habitat in North Kona may put the brakes on other development but won’t affect the judiciary at its current site, Seki said.

ADVERTISING


NPS Superintendent Tammy Duchesne said oversight of the aquifer by the CWRM offers the best opportunity to balance economic growth and protection of public trust resources.

“We are available to clarify what we have described in our petition to the comptroller if he decides to seek our input prior to making any future decisions,” Duchesne said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.