County takes legal action against seed companies


LIHU‘E — In response to community concerns, the county has issued multiple notices of violation to two South Shore seed companies for non-permitted grubbing activities in November and December. 

“After investigating, the county did determine that unpermitted and unexempt agriculture-related grubbing was taking place,” County Engineer Larry Dill said. “The issuance of violation notices was a legal action taken by the county.”

The Public Works Department issued two notices of violation to Pioneer Hi-Bred International in Waimea and eight notices to Dow AgroSciences in Kaumakani. Each notice is dated March 3 and each cites three Dec. 8 violations: grubbing area exceeding one acre, permit requirement and lack of minimum best practices.

“The county has historically pursued grubbing violations via complaint,” Dill said. “In these cases, the county was informed of the possible grubbing violations after receipt of anonymous complaint. Due to concerns of the reporting party, the county cannot release the name of the complainant or the number of complaints received.”

A source speaking on condition of anonymity said area residents witnessed mud slides along coastal agricultural fields following the heavy rains of last December, and that the subsequent muddy runoff ended up in the ocean and impacted commercial fishing.

“No damage to the surrounding areas were identified,” Dill said, adding that  “identification of damage is not a requisite for legal action.”

“Companies have responded promptly to the notices of violation and have been working in good faith with the county,” he said. “Due to the fact that the grubbing violations were related to agricultural operations, it was decided that the companies should complete their pursuit of their agricultural exemptions rather than seek retro-active grubbing permits.”

Cindy Goldstein, manager of business and community outreach for Pioneer Hi-Bred, said, “Pioneer is working to clear this up with the county and know that there are agricultural exemptions for the grading and grubbing ordinance … I’m not in a position to comment in more detail.”

She was uncertain of the time frame of the grubbing and the number of acres involved, but stated that her office received no complaints about the grubbing activities from the community.

“We did receive some complaints about dust,” Goldstein said, “and we responded to them promptly.”

Tom Scagnoli, Kaua‘i site leader for Dow AgroSciences, said in a written statement, “Unfortunately, I am not able to speak to the specifics at this time. What is important is that Dow AgroSciences will abide by all relevant site-related requirements for our operations.”

Scagnoli also said he has not received any complaints from the community about damages.

“In coordination with the county, we will continue to implement and comply with best management practices with respect to the land and in compliance with the Kaua‘i County Code pending receipt of an agricultural exemption for our operations,” he said. “So, while we work to finalize any outstanding issues with the County, activities to steward the land are ongoing and have been aggressively pursued from the outset.” 

Grubbing permits are the vehicle by which the county requires implementation of erosion and sediment control measures, which serve to mitigate damage to streams, watercourses, natural areas and neighboring properties, the county engineer said.

“The scope of the county’s grading, grubbing and stockpiling ordinance limits our jurisdiction to activities on land,” Dill said. “The county has not conducted any underwater inspections.”

All notices of violation pertain to lands leased from from former sugar company Gay and Robinson.

• Vanessa Van Voorhis, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or by emailing


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