Salt Pond under fire

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    John Kaneholani, left, and Kane Turalde take advantage of the last bit of daylight to harvest top salt ahead of rains near Salt Pond Beach Park in 2017.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island file

    Maverick Helicopters pilot Adam Chase briefs passengers on safety and procedures before a helicopter tour of Kauai out of Port Allen Airport last year.

HANAPEPE — The county Planning Commission will hold a hearing June 25 that will begin the process of whether or not to grant Smoky Mountain Helicopters Inc. a class IV zoning permit, which would allow them the ability to make modifications to an existing helicopter tour facility at Port Allen Airport.

The request comes from the company that operates Maverick Helicopters. The company has a facility at the Port Allen Airport, near salt pans where families continue to harvest pa‘akai (salt) in the Hawaiian traditional way.

The hearing on the zoning request relates to adding to Maverick’s existing facility, including bathrooms, storage and “associated improvements.”

A petition with 15,160 signatures is being circulated to present to the commission opposing the possible expansion.

“Maverick Helicopters, Smoky Mountain, is going before County of Kauai Planning Commission to apply for after-the-fact permits and permits that would expand operations. They are one of the biggest helicopter companies and expanding their facilities will have impacts on Hawaiian salt farming,” reads an online petition against the zoning request.

“The close proximity of Port Allen Airport to the Hanapepe salt ponds and its potential contribution to the pollution, noise and chemical runoff has been a longstanding concern for pa‘akai practitioners,” the online petition continues.

The petition was started by Ku‘ulei Santos on the website, where she provided a brief video about traditional pa‘akai farming techniques her’s and other families have used for decades at the site in Hanapepe.

“The more we talk about it, the more we educate people — the more people want to protect it, the more people want to preserve it, the more people want to do their part so this area stays the way it was meant to be,” Santos said.

On the Planning Commission agenda is a request to postpone the hearing and waive timelines as requested by attorney Lorna Nishimitsu in a letter dated April 25, 2019.

A report by Planning Director Ka‘aina Hull pertaining to the matter is expected to be read, and the petition started by Santos will be submitted to the commission.

The request for the zoning permit reads, “to allow modifications to an existing helicopter tour facility that includes restroom facilities, office trailer, storage and associated improvements on a parcel located along the mauka side of Kuiloko Road in Hanapepe, situated at its intersection with Lele Road, further identified as 3441 Kuiloko Road.”

Anyone wishing to sign the petition against the expansion can find the petition at The petition is not asking for monetary donations.

Vice President of Marketing for Maverick Helicopters Brian Kristen sent TGI a prepared statement on the issue, saying they’re not the first company to fly out of Port Allen Airport and that they’re one of several operators who conduct tourisim-based helicopter flights over Kauai.

“Flight operations have been in place for nearly a century at Port Allen Airport with commercial flight services beginning in 1929,” Kristen said.

“There are daily helicopter and airplane operations at the federally funded and public Port Allen Airport besides Maverick Helicopters. We have also taken additional steps to reduce effects on natural habitats by exclusively flying Airbus EC130 ‘ECO-Star’ helicopters which have been classified as Quiet Technology by the federal government,” he said.

“Maverick Helicopters has never flown over the Salt Ponds of Hanapepe since we started operations in 2018. Maverick has witnessed other aircraft over the vicinity of the Salt Ponds of Hanapepe and have taken proactive measures to contact and notify other operators to avoid the area.

“Our goal is to showcase the beauty of Kauai as one of the world’s top destinations.”


Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or

  1. Thank you for smoking June 24, 2019 6:08 am Reply

    I love all the doublespeak and outright lies in this article. These copters do, in fact fly right over the salt pans. Not to mention all the Hanapepe heights neighborhoods at all hours. Despite the 15000 signatures opposing this expansion, I am sure the right palms have been greased and back room deals have already gone through. Disneyland for tourists today, big money for said chopper company and more noise and environmental exploration and noise pollution for all the plebs. Don’t forget to pick up some ice and menthol cigarettes for all th c tweakers at burns field……

  2. jake June 24, 2019 6:48 am Reply

    Not flying over the salt pans isn’t the solution. The trade winds constantly carry helicopter exhaust fumes over the salt ponds and the beach area. The unsettling noise from engines is always there. How about this…close the airport for good. I can’t believe Sky Dive Kauai is still allowed to operate there after the 4 lives they took. Get your planes and choppers up to the North Shore where they belong.

  3. tunataxi June 24, 2019 8:40 am Reply

    Let them work out of Lihue Salt Pond doesn’t need more traffic in the air.

  4. Joe Maka June 24, 2019 10:47 am Reply

    It’s a straight up NO. Helicopters have destroyed some of Kauai’s most peaceful places. Brian Kristen is just in this for business. Anything suggesting that a helicopter is quiet or “eco” is pure marketing BS. Helicopters are supposed to “fly neighborly” but in fact they fly everywhere and disrupt thousands of people every day. All of this noise for the benefit of just a few people. NO.

  5. tunataxi June 24, 2019 12:16 pm Reply

    I’d be curious if a proper EIS (environmental impact statement” has been done for increased traffic in the area ??

  6. Pete Antonson June 24, 2019 2:35 pm Reply

    Your “…at the Port Allen Airport, near salt pans…” is just plain awful journalism! Anyone reading this article would identify this point as a critical one.
    The road going along the airport, bringing trucks to despoil the beach (try closing that, baby! Ha Ha Ha!) is “near” the salt pans. I could stand on that road and hit a pan with a rock (but I haven’t).
    If I turn toward the Helicopter facility, I could throw a rock, walk for a while, pick it up, throw it again, walk for a while, pick it up, throw it again, walk for a while, pick it up, throw it again, and so on for a while.
    If that is “near” then TGI Offices are “near” Wilcox Hospital! Use that next time someone calls for directions!

  7. Palani June 24, 2019 9:47 pm Reply

    From the article, it sounds like the “Expansion” is actually just improvements to the existing facility. Some restrooms are not going to impact the salt ponds. The salt ponds and helicopters have coexisted for many years. If there’s a negative impact to the salt ponds, lets see some chemical analysis of the ponds to prove it.

  8. Hana Kamaka June 29, 2019 9:02 pm Reply

    Aircraft should no longer be allowed to operate out of there and the airstrip should be decommissioned. Either the County or the State already destroyed the habitat of the native pueo that used to live and breed in the trees next to the airstrip when they cut all the trees down. Next on the agenda is the destruction of a native Hawaiian cultural practice that has been in that area for over a hundred years. Money talks in a corrupt Democratic controlled government.

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