by Steve Holmes and Cory Harden

Changing aquifer boundaries may solve one thorny problem for a developer—but only one.

A developer is proposing Nakahili, a “family agricultural community”, for almost 1,600 acres near the junction of Mamalahoa Highway and Waikoloa Road.

At first glance, it looks dreamy—lots of affordable housing, agriculture lots, and open spaces. It would have almost 1,200 new houses and apartments on 700 one-acre agricultural lots, plus 150 more agricultural lots of two to five acres. It would include a commercial district, some light industrial areas, and a wastewater facility.

But the State Office of Planning is not enthused. It notes that the land is classified “Poor” by the Land Study Bureau, has some of the lowest rainfall on the island, and lacks enough ground water for full project build-out. On top of that, live-fire military training was done in the vicinity decades ago, but there has been no cleanup of old munitions for about half of the Nakahili site.

The association for the nearby Mauna Lani Resort concurs, and also cites fire risk; distance from fire, medical, and police services; pollution from agricultural chemicals and wastewater; duplication of infrastructure that is already in place nearby, and the general impacts of about 3,000 new people in the area. Not mincing words, the association says the Nakahli “vision is pure fiction and does not even begin to assess the environmental impacts of essentially uncontrolled, unprofessional truck farming in an environment that is so hostile to agricultural use that is has never been used for this purpose.”

Regardless, it appears Nakahili may solve one problem—if the legal boundaries of the Waimea Aquifer are changed so the project winds up with sufficient water.

As of press time, this comes before the Commission on Water Resource Management at their meeting

10 AM June 18 in Waimea on Hawai’i Island; place to be announced.

No matter how that turns out, we expect more opportunities for public feedback as the project winds its way through the system in the coming months. Please keep an eye out.