Cinder quarry looks to expand

HILO — A cinder quarry south of Leilani Estates may be expanded in the next few years after a petition was filed by Kamehameha Schools last month.

The petition, filed June 21, requested to partially reclassify a 94-acre lot immediately south of Leilani Estates in Puna, on the slopes of the Puu Kaliu cinder cone, from conservation to agricultural land in order to expand a cinder quarry there operated by Sanford’s Service Center.

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According to the petition, 73 acres of the lot would be reclassified, allowing quarry operations to expand beyond its existing area. The remaining 21 acres would remain as a buffer zone.

Since 2008, Sanford’s has used 30 acres at the Leilani site as a cinder quarry, producing a low-density type of black cinder highly valued by the nursery and floriculture industry.

While the quarry avoided significant damage during the 2018 Kilauea eruption, its operations were disrupted as access to much of the surrounding area was restricted. Access to the site is only possible through Malama Street in Leilani Estates — which was largely isolated by the lava flow — and a private road connecting to Highway 130.

Crystal Kua, communications specialist for Kamehameha Schools, said that without the requested zoning changes, the quarry will be unable to expand its operations, thanks to a 2011 change to conservation district rules that removed mining and quarrying from the list of identified land uses for conservation districts.

“The goal of this proposed boundary amendment is to balance our kuleana to actively steward special cultural and natural assets like nearby Puu Kaliu, while providing an important resource of black cinders to the agricultural community,” Kua said in a statement.

Kua said “the first step” of the rezoning process was addressed at a meeting last Wednesday of the state Land Use Commission in Kailua-Kona, where the commission was designated as the accepting authority for an environmental assessment for the project.

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However, the next steps project will not be happening soon. Kua said the petition itself likely will not be heard at a commission meeting until next year.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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