Coco Palms and endangered species

  • photo courtesy of Terry Lilley

    Koloa ducks are one of the endangered bird species Terry Lilley claims are living on Coco Palms Resort property.

  • photo courtesy of Terry Lilley

    Moorhens are one of the endangered bird species Terry Lilley claims are living on Coco Palms Resort property.

WAILUA — Koloa ducks and moorhens have waddled into the spotlight in the saga surrounding the development of Coco Palms, the historic hotel destroyed in the 1992 Hurricane Iniki.

While developers with Coco Palms Hui, LLC maintain they have no knowledge of endangered species on the property, the Environmental Protection Agency is responding to reports of the endangered ducks living on the premises.

“EPA has received the emailed letter and is currently reviewing it, and working to identify the specific location of the site,” said Dean Higuchi, press officer with EPA.

The letter in question was sent to EPA on Monday by biologist and researcher Terry Lilley, who claims he has GPS documentation of the presence of a colony of endangered bird species “on or near the proposed rebuilding site of the Coco Palms Hotel.”

“We are not aware of any endangered species residing on the Coco Palms property,” said Chad Waters in a statement from Coco Palms Hui to TGI. “If they are encountered, all interactions will be guided by the regulations set forth in the Endangered Species Act.”

Lilley says there are a variety of activities that could affect those species, if they are found to be on the property.

“Large equipment, vehicles, workers, police, security guards and other people involved in large-scale action or groundbreaking operations has the likelihood of harassing the endangered Koloa ducks and moorhens present, or near the project site,” Lilley wrote in the letter to the EPA.

He also sent the letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Army Crop of Engineers, and County of Kauai.

Though the County does not administer or enforce the ESA, the County attorney’s office cited a Sept. 27, 2016 Kauai Planning Commission meeting, when the Planning Department included three permit conditions in the Coco Palms development. Two of those conditions were focused on Newell’s shearwater impact mitigation, and the third was aimed at reducing impacts to the Hawaiian waterbirds.

Both moorhens and Koloa ducks were listed as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act in 1967. The Newell’s shearwater was listed as an threatened species by the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1975.

Lilley says a complete Environmental Impact Statement is required for developers to move forward with the project, and cites the $100,000 fine and potential jail time for violating the ESA.

Because farmers are exempt from the ESA law under the Safe Harbor Act as long as they work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage the species, Lilley is not concerned about the activities of the people who were living on the property claiming ownership.

“If the (taro) farmers are on the Coco Palms property in the presence of Koloa ducks, they are just fine,” Lilley said. “Other folks entering the property cannot disturb the Koloa ducks or moorhens in any way.”

Waters, however, says this is just another angle in ongoing efforts to destroy the development.

“It is blatantly apparent that Mr. Lilley is motivated by his opposition to the rebuild of the Coco Palms Resort and using whatever methods available to create hardships for the project, whether factually accurate or not,” Waters said in the Coco Palms Hui statement.

He continued: “Mr. Lilley is connected to and supported by the same group that trespassed and squatted on the property leaving massive amounts of rubbish and abandoned vehicles. This action is clearly in retaliation for the recent ejectment proceedings. This group is also behind the $200,000,000 Notice to Quit or Pay Rent and the filing of the arrest warrant against Judge Soong from the fictitious court, The Hawaiian Judiciary Court of the Sovereign.”

For a year, people claiming Native Hawaiian ties and rights to the land upon which Coco Palms Hotel sits have been living on the land. After a lengthy court battle, the occupiers were removed by law enforcement on Feb. 23, with one arrest.

The Notice to Quit or Pay Rent was filed by the group’s leaders Noa Mau-Espirito and Kamu Charles Hepa on March 8. The next day, County attorney Mauna Kea Trask weighed in on the Notice to Quit in The Garden Island newspaper.

In the March 9 article, Trask pointed out the Court of the Sovereign is nonexistent.

“The county does not recognize ‘The Hawaiian Judiciary Court of the Sovereign’ as a lawful court with any jurisdiction whatsoever,” Trask said in a letter sent to Mau-Espirito and Hepa.

Minority groups are attempting to advance their personal agendas using the Coco Palms Resort as a target, Waters said in his statement to TGI, but the Coco Palms Hui is remaining “steadfast in our promises and commitments to the community of Kauai.”

Lilley says his goal is to protect the endangered species, and cites state and federal studies that show the area will be a wetland in coming years because of sea level rise.

“Under U.S. law it is illegal to build in a marsh, an emerging marsh, or wetland habitat for endangered birds,” he said. “This new wetland is extremely important for the future survival of the critically endangered Koloa duck that is now living and nesting on or near the proposed development site.”

18 Comments
  1. harry oyama March 13, 2018 1:42 am Reply

    So will the judge order the law enforcement to arrest and kick out these endangered ducks as well?


  2. Basil Scott March 13, 2018 7:07 am Reply

    I find the idea of an emerging marsh to be quite (legally) novel and somewhat questionable. After all, the hotel will presumably take steps to preserve their dry land. If it does happen, will this be brackish water and not OK for the waterbirds? This says that something that might happen in 20 years, and if does, we don’t know exactly what it will be like, will be the controlling factor. That puts speculative considerations ahead of today’s factual reality. While clever, I think it’s a step beyond what the law actually says.


  3. kimo March 13, 2018 7:21 am Reply

    “steadfast in our promises and commitments to the community of Kauai.”

    Did the developers actually say this with a straight face? The owners have done nothing but lie and mislead the County for years.


  4. drsurf March 13, 2018 8:03 am Reply

    Of course the developers have no knowledge of any endangered species. They also have no knowledge of all the fallen dust screens along Kuhio Highway and Kuamoo Road. They have no knowledge of the terrible state of the coconut grove which they promised in good faith to maintain. Yes, they are in a court situation but have shown no pride in the upkeep of the land and how it looks to anyone passing by.


  5. mrs. chris hoppetr March 13, 2018 9:35 am Reply

    A wealthy man from the EAST COAST visited COCO PALMS around1980-86 & insisted on gifting MRS. GUSLANDER with a pair of ducks-he said they would help keep the lagoon clean. NO WAY __+_THEY ATE THE ROOTBULBS on our WATER LILIES & nearly destroyed the fishes retreats etc. GRACE gave tourists gifts to catch the duckd & had coops to put them in. My friend & I caught 2-finally. PLEASE what else will people try. Lets get locals to work & get coco palm finished.I am a past part owner & spent months there.949 697 8437 is my cell #> ALOHA,CHRIS HOPPER


  6. Just Saying March 13, 2018 1:47 pm Reply

    Instead of “Fake News,” why don;t we call it “Lilley News.”


    1. Sarah Schmidt March 13, 2018 4:25 pm Reply

      Seriously, they are synonymous!!


  7. Chad Waters March 13, 2018 3:35 pm Reply

    This is a very disappointing article from Jessica all around. Since when is pseudo science now news worthy? This is nothing more than her advancing Terry Lilley’s personal agenda which she seems to share. I guess I should not have expected a higher standard from the “environmental” reporter from TGI. Jessica purposely deleted the portions of my statement that she didn’t want printed. I’m going to quit responding when TGI asks for a statements regarding Coco Palms if the agenda of the reporter comes before the real story!


  8. Geckoman March 13, 2018 4:42 pm Reply

    This smells like dead tuna. The high quality squatter would have been all over this – if they were all about the aina as they claimed, when they were trespassing. Either the ducks waddled in with the heavy rains or this is a fowl story.


    1. Jan westphal March 14, 2018 3:55 am Reply

      What did you say that she deleted? I don’t think Jessica can delete comments. So here is your chance to express your important statement that she deleted…


  9. Uncleaina March 13, 2018 4:49 pm Reply

    TGI: you are now promoting fake news. Mr Lilley has no authority- he’s not a biologist and your “reporting” is now just “opinion”. Please try and have journalistic integrity. Things have really slipped there and this is a new low. Isn’t there someone at TGI who vets the sources ? Why not WAIT until you have more information to publish this story? Such flagrant bias really undermines the public trust.


    1. Chad Waters March 13, 2018 8:10 pm Reply

      As previously reported by TGI, this group has ties to the fake court whose Chief Justice is a convicted sex offender and to the Southern Poverty Law Center who is tied to white supremacist groups. They raise money on GoFundMe to “malama da aina” and then leave mountain of rubbish and numerous abandoned vehicles. At the same time they claim they are not in this for the money, they send a demand for $200M (or is it $200B) in compensation. Then TGI gets a letter from a pseudo biologist claiming he is concerned he is concerned about the endangered species on the property when a few days earlier he participates in a rally at Lydgate with sole purpose to figure out how to stop the Coco Palms project. Seriously TGI, the real story here is extortion and not the ducks!


  10. Jan westphal March 14, 2018 3:50 am Reply

    Could anyone please explain to me the meaning of Scientist or not a scientist. Or maybe one is only a scientist if they are supporting the development. It’s actually quite clear, if a person had education at an accredited University and has worked in the field of science, by default the person is a scientist. Granted there are scientists supporting issues and against them.
    You can’t take a law like the Endangered Species Act and call it pseudo science Fake News. I know someone else that calls everything that’s not following his agenda as “Fake News”
    So when the sea level is rising on the surface it is also rising from underneath. The fresh water table rises as the water cannot drain towards the ocean. This causes fresh water to rise and hence freshwater wetland. This is not made up fake news. Regardless of the people that are claiming ancestral ownership of the land Coco Palms will never be rebuilt because Endangered species are present and the land is turning back to wetlands by itself.


  11. Terry D Lilley March 14, 2018 7:28 am Reply

    You folks are quite slanderous and need to be sued! I have a four year college degree in Biological Sciences and a degree in Endangered Species Management. I have been in state and federal court over 50 times as a biologist and professional witness. I have 20,000 hours in the sea documenting marine life. I have worked as a biologist with NOAA, USGS, National Geographic, UH, and Scripps Institute. You folks are spreading false information with the intent on damaging my reputation and that is flat our illegal. Sarah, why don’t you give me your address for service?


  12. Terry D Lilley March 14, 2018 7:34 am Reply

    The Coco Palms own architect admitted to the presence of endangered Koloa Ducks on the project site! I posted his email on Facebook that was sent to the developers, myself and the Kauai Wildlife Manager. The US Fish and Wildlife knows about the Koloa Ducks! Just remember folks that all of your comments are being documented and can be used if and when this issue goes to court. Maybe it is time to stop the lies and use some provable facts.


  13. Cody March 14, 2018 9:54 am Reply

    Sarah, by stating something on an internet forum, doesn’t make it true.

    For instance, I could write: “Sarah Schmidt is not your real name, you are actually Chad Waters posting as someone else trying to further defame Lilley.” I may believe that and I could convince others to believe it, but I have no proof on the claim.

    You, too, have no proof on this claim. In fact, Terry has proof stating just the opposite—as it shows he has a Bachelor of Science in Biological Science.

    Online trolling doesn’t lead to anything good Sarah.


  14. Punikaiwa March 15, 2018 1:53 pm Reply

    The Coco Palms development preceded the EIS law and regulations. The presence of endangered species does not “trigger” any action. It is very likely the ducks are not koloa maoli but rather hybrids. Sea level rise will no doubt impact this property and plans for reconstruction appear to be cognizant of that impact.


  15. Eric H March 21, 2018 11:40 am Reply

    All of these issues I read all the way from Texas are ridiculous. Start rebuilding the Coco Palms and stop making fools of yourselves. The ducks will survive. They’re not going to run into a bulldozer.


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