LIHU’E — State officicals have set a deadline of this Friday for comments on
its yet-to-be-published, new draft environmental assessment regarding proposed
improvements at Burns Field.
Though there is no public hearing planned on
the new study of the airport plans, Friday won’t be the end of the public
comment period on the document.
While the state Office of Environmental
Quality Control reviews the draft environmental assessment (EA) after the
Department of Transportation’s Airport Division submits it, there is a 30-day
public comment period once Quality Control’s formal receipt of the document is
published in its monthly The Environmental Notice newsletter.
state Circuit Court judge ruled that an earlier, October 1999 EA was inadequate
because it did not include a detailed analysis of the relocation of helicopter
operations from Port Allen Airport (as Burns Field is called by DOT) to Lihu’e
The court ordered DOT to prepare a new draft EA which takes a
longer look at that alternative. In the October EA, it was discussed briefly,
only as a “no-action alternative” to the proposed improvements.
from DOT-Airport administrator Jerry M. Matsuda, sent to about 40 people who
submitted comments on the first EA, asks for additional comments by this
Friday, even though the new draft EA won’t be finished by then.
outline the proposed improvements, including four lease lots of hangars for
helicopter operations, two fixed-wing tie-down areas, restroom and maintenance
buildings, parking stalls and other improvements.
The DOT’s application for
county permits for the improvements is the subject of a contested-case hearing
before the Kaua’i County Planning Commission.
The commission has deferred
action on those permits, pending the finalization of the new draft
Also, in the Kaua’i General Plan final draft, it is recommended that
the entire area of Puolo Point, where Port Allen Airport is located, be kept in
open space, possibly as a county or state park.
Matsuda’s letter also
states that public comments received during the preparation of the first EA
will be included in the new document.
Bonnie Lofstedt, co-owner of Island
Helicopters, is worried about a potential lack of public input on the new EA
without a public hearing.
State officials “wanted additional public
comments, but they’re really not going to get any because it’s not going to be
posted anywhere,” she said. “Their comment is that they said they don’t have to
do that (have a public hearing), but I don’t know if that’s really fair to the
Ben Schlapack, head planner with DOT-Airport, said there is “no
requirement for a public hearing. We had a hearing before; we had a public
meeting before. We’re doing it according to (state) rules.”
Friday’s deadline, DOT will complete the draft EA and submit it to Office of
Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) for its scrutiny.
“This time, we’re
going to have more detail on why the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)
wouldn’t let us do it (move all helicopters to Lihu’e Airport), and why it’s
not possible under the terms of FAA grants to discriminate against helicopter
companies by forcing them to be in one place,” Schlapack said.
Segundo, environmental health specialist in the OEQC, said the office has a
10-point checklist it puts draft EA documents through once the documents are
received by the office.
If the checklist is completed, the 30-day public
comment timetable will start. After that period, DOT officials must respond to
the comments and issue a final EA with either:
* A finding of no
significant impact, as happened after the October 1999 EA, in which case a full
environmental impact statement (EIS) is not needed.
* Or a finding of
significant impact, in which case an EIS would be required.
Paul C. Curtis can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or