Chuan questioning county’s response to grubbing at Kalihiwai

Grubbing on land mauka of the Kalihiwai Bridge in Kilauea has triggered charges of illegal work by Raymond Chuan of the Limu Coalition, and counter claims by the landowner of the grubbed land that the critic has made “totally false” claims.

The work took place within a 12-acre parcel mauka of the bridge and began two to three weeks ago.

It was completed yesterday, according to Jim Gair, the owner of the parcel who is creating a farming business on the site.

Chuan complained to county officials in mid-October that Gair and his workers violated Gair’s grubbing permit by working on Sundays, putting debris on parts of the Pu‘ukumu Stream, which runs through the property, and not immediately putting up a silt fence to prevent erosion. Chuan also said Gair put debris too close to the stream.

Chuan kept an eye on the job from the shoulder of Kuhio Highway that adjoins the property, documenting what he saw with a camera. He is contending that county Department of Public Works employee Mario Antonio ignored provisions of a newly revised county grading, grubbing and stockpiling law, including failing to issue a notice of violation five days after the violation is reported and for not immediately sending the case to the county prosecutor’s office when a permittee has violated a permit condition.

Gair, who did the grubbing work with friends, said Chuan’s charges “are totally false” and that “no violations occurred.”

Gair contends that Chuan’s allegations could damage his reputation. Gair said he lived on Kaua‘i 25 years ago, got involved with the home building industry in Las Vegas, recently retired, moved back to the island and now wants to start a commercial tropical farm business within his 12-acre parcel at mauka Kalihiwai.

Gair said that Chuan’s complaints could slow down his business plan.

Gair said Chuan’s allegations are groundless and that he followed all the conditions of a permit that was issued to him on Aug. 22 by the county.

Gair said his experience in the home building industry allowed him and some friends to tackle the grubbing project themselves.

“Nobody cares more about the stream than I do,” he said. “I have 1,800 feet of frontage over the stream and own both sides of the stream.”

Gair said he had two laborers remove debris from the stream, a task “that has never been done.”

To control erosion, Gair said he had installed more than 1,500 lineal feet of silt fencing, a requirement of the county permit.

Gair said he and his workers hauled away eight loads of rubbish to the Kekaha landfill. The debris had been left by the previous owner of the parcel, Gair said.

“I didn’t bury it as others would have. I hauled it away as you are supposed to,” he said.

With completion of the clearing of the land yesterday, Gair said “we are going to let the ground stabilize, irrigate and let it grow.”

Gair said he plans to grow tropical flowers and plants on most of the cleared land for sale to Mainland markets.

Chuan is a regular at County Council meetings and other government meetings on Kaua‘i and sees himself as government watchdog. He is a retired scientist from southern California and is now a resident of Hanalei. He heads the Limu Coalition, a community group which favored the ouster of the Na Pali charter tour boat industry from Hanalei Bay and Hanalei River by former Gov. Ben Cayetano, an action that has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge.

Last year, Chuan aggressively led the charge to force federal, state and county government agencies to step up their investigations of North Shore landowner and retired Honolulu car dealership James Pflueger and his associates for un-permitted grubbing work on their property in Pila‘a in Kilauea.

Torrential rains generated mudslides that damaged areas around a home owned by Amy and Rick Marvin by Pila‘a Bay.

Also, tons of sediment flowed into the bay and caused claimed damage to a part of the bay and coral at Pila‘a.

Chuan worked with the Earth Justice Legal Defense in filing a lawsuit against Pflueger for violation of a federal environmental protection law.

In regards to Gair’s Kalihiwai land clearing work, Chuan sent his allegations in e-mails to The Garden Island, to Mayor Bryan Baptiste, the Kaua‘i County Council and a long list of others describing his efforts to get county Public Works Department employees to follow new provisions in a grading, grubbing and stockpiling law that was amended and approved by the Kaua‘i County Council this month.

Chuan is saying that the lack of action by the department amounted to a mockery of legislation that had been worked on by the council, with input from the public, over the last 12 months.

Council members sought legislation that would protect the environment and prevent abuses, to expedite government investigations and to levy heavy criminal penalties against violators.

Two key provisions in the updated law required the county Public Works Department to take prompt action when a violation is reported, Chuan said.

One of the key amended sections of the strengthened county law requires the county engineer to issue a notice of violation within five working days of the violations, Chuan said.

No notice was issued in the latest case, although he heard that Gair was verbally told to stop grubbing, Chuan said.

Chuan said Mayor Bryan Baptiste signed the council legislation into law Oct. 10, and “five days later I reported this (the grubbing work by the Kalihiwai Bridge) to Mario (Antonio, a Kaua‘i Public Works employee), and as of Oct. 22, I asked if he had issued a notice of violation, and he said ‘no.'”

“The trouble is that they (contractors) are used to the violations. They know they can get away with them,” Chuan said.

Another key amendment in the strengthened law requires that a case be sent immediately to county prosecutors when a permittee violated permit conditions, Chuan said. This also was not done, he contends.

Antonio said he couldn’t comment on the case, and referred inquires to Cyndi Ozaki, the public information officer with the county.

Ozaki said yesterday afternoon that she would check into the matter and would make comment when it was possible.

Other county officials noted that the new law can’t be implemented until new administrative rules are adopted by the county government.

In his e – mail, Chuan said he noticed a large denuded hillside on the mauka side of Kuhio Highway by the Kalihiwai Bridge as he drove to Lihu‘e town on Oct. 15.

“The area being clear cut begins at a point about 50 feet or more above the stream,” Chuan said in the e-mail. “The entire slope has been clear cut down to the stream, with all the cut trees and debris pushed into the slope above the stream.”

A roadway also was being cut above the north bank of the stream, Chuan said.

Chuan said he contacted Antonio on Oct. 20 and was told Gair had a permit, which called for control of runoff, installation of a silt fence and berms and stockpiling of debris from grubbing.

Later that day, Chuan said, Antonio informed him that the contractor had been verbally told to halt work, to clear the debris from the stream bank and to install the silt fence.

Chuan claims he saw the work still continuing that afternoon.

On Oct. 21, Chuan said Antonio called him to say that the contractor had installed 4,000 feet of silt fencing and had cleared debris.

On Oct. 22, five days after the violations had allegedly occurred, Chuan called Antonio to see if a notice of violation had been issued. Chuan said he was told none had been issued.

Staff Writer Lester Chang may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and


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