Water, infrastructure and housing work in South Maui
By Tom Cook
As chair of the Maui County Council’s Water and Infrastructure Committee, I was energized by hosting a community townhall last month. Here are a few updates shared at the townhall that impact South Maui.
The completion of the proposed Kīhei North-South Collector Road along the South Maui Transit Oriented Corridor remains a top priority for the county. The road will lighten traffic along South Kīhei Road and Piʻilani Highway.
The design of the next segment of the road is 40% complete and the draft environmental assessment is being finalized. This segment will extend the collector road almost one mile from East Waipuʻilani Road to Kaʻonoʻulu Street. Construction for the next segment is scheduled to begin in 2024 and will include landscaped pedestrian and bicycle pathways.
This summer, in collaboration with the Maui Metropolitan Planning Organization and Kīhei Community Association, my office will be hosting a transportation summit. Participants will take part in mapping specific routes in Kīhei to increase walkable and bikable pathways near the proposed transportation corridor.
Our goal for the summit is to educate cyclists and drivers on traffic safety and the rules of the road. We also hope to brainstorm with community members and government agencies about future projects relating to transportation.
We need ways for our students to walk or ride to school safely. We anticipate participation from the police and fire departments, state and county transportation departments and Maui Bicycling League.
Another update relates to the complex and interrelated issues of flood mitigation, erosion control, water quality and wetland management. In May, representatives of the Federal Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service joined residents and local organizations for a field visit at Kūlanihākoʻi Gulch.
The objectives of flood mitigation is to slow the velocity of water coming down the mountain and sediment removal to improve the water quality in Ma‘alaea Bay. In March, the county signed a contract to conduct a mapping study of all wetland parcels. South Maui will be mapped before the end of the year.
Our wetlands play an important role in the filtration of groundwater, and local ranchers understand the critical role they play in preventing soil erosion.
In addition, axis deer have trampled and eaten through ranchlands. The loss of native plants and topsoil has forced some ranchers to abandon their cattle-raising businesses.
Collectively, the ranchers have installed many miles of axis deer fencing, and native plants are being replanted to stabilize the soil. Ranchers have formed a non-profit company, Mālama Haleakalā, to spearhead strategic and funding efforts to mitigate the flooding and axis deer.
The council placed $1.25 million in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget to match state funding for flood prevention and mitigation at the Kūlanihākoʻi and Waipuʻilani gulches, including a R-1 water reservoir.
In addition, I proposed $500,000 for sediment removal where Waiakoa Gulch crosses the northern end of South Kīhei Road. This will increase the depth of outfall, allowing more water to flow to the ocean.
Furthermore, the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College received a $724,000 Conservation Innovation Grant to evaluate new strategies to increase water use efficiency, enhance soil moisture content and reduce surface and groundwater depletion.
In other news, government officials and property owner Mahi Pono, responded to complaints about illegal camping adjacent to Sugar Beach. Trespass warnings were issued, and trash was removed to keep the beach a welcoming recreational site for all.
Affordable housing continues to be a top priority. With the completion of Kaiwahine Village, Hale Kaiola and Kenolio Apartments, there are two affordable housing projects planned for South Maui. Hale O Piʻikea, Phase I, will consist of 90 rentals for low-income residents earning 60% AMI or less, and Kilohana Makai will be situated at the intersection of Kilohana Drive and South Kīhei Road.
The council appropriated $6.2 million for the administration-led Maʻalaea Mauka project, aimed at protecting Pōhākea Watershed lands, and the state’s Legacy Fund is prepared to contribute an additional $1 million.
It has been a busy start to my first term as your councilmember. I look forward to continuing to update you on the council’s work as we strive to create a safe and prosperous environment for our community.
- Tom Cook is chair of the County Council’s Water and Infrastructure Committee. He holds the council seat for the South Maui residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest council news affecting Maui County. Please visit mauicounty.us for more information.