TheGardenIsland.com – Managing uncertainty

IAL meeting creates more questions than answers

By Lois Ann Ell – Special to The Garden Island

Published: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 2:11 AM HST

KAPA‘A — What began as an informational meeting about the designation of important agricultural lands turned into a heated discussion about Kaua‘i’s agricultural future.

Dr. Karl Kim, a professor at the UH Department of Urban and Regional Planning, presented a slide show of the Koloa-Po‘ipu pilot agricultural lands study he and his colleagues conducted for the Land Use Commission. He was the guest speaker at the monthly Wailua-Kapa’a Neighborhood Association meeting Monday night at the Kapa’a Library.

The IAL designation has been a 30-year process, with a constitutional mandate in 1978 requiring the state to “conserve and protect” agricultural lands. Not until 2005 was Act 183 passed to implement the process, followed by Act 233 in 2008, which included “incentives” for designating IAL.

Currently, there is a parallel process of land owners petitioning to designate their land, as well as the county designating lands on Kaua‘i. Alexander & Baldwin was granted the first IAL on Kaua‘i in March, with more than 3,000 acres on the Westside.

Kim explained the approach of the study was to “identify and map potential important agricultural lands based on Act 183” and to “develop tools and methods as a prototype for other communities.” The study was based on the criteria to designate land as IAL, which include soil quality, sufficient water, land with traditional Hawaiian agricultural uses, and land identified under “agricultural productivity ratings” by the Board of Agriculture in 1977.

Some audience members noted that the criteria are “outdated” and other factors should be considered. Don Heacock, state aquatic biologist and farmer, identified some factors, such as the importance of watershed councils and the ahupua‘a traditional Hawaiian model.

“It should be based on a watershed-by-watershed basis,” Heacock said, adding that most of the IAL are located on alluvial flood plains.

Kim confirmed the ahupua‘a model will be taken into consideration and reminded the audience that the pilot study was simply a model.

He stressed that the IAL designation process will be highly reliant upon community input. He said a “stakeholder technological advisory committee” will be formed with monthly meetings, in addition to three different informational meetings across the island, and an appearance at the upcoming Farm Bureau Fair this Saturday.

Community activist Bruce Pleas shared the importance of recognizing the agricultural diversity on each side of the island when discussing community input.

“You have to have workshops at every town because they’re all different,” Pleas said.

Former Mayor and Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura stressed the importance of educating the public on the IAL process.

“As long as you do the education first … or else public input won’t work,” she said.

In addition to the committee and island-wide meetings, Kim said Web sites, informational distribution and interactive blogs are forthcoming regarding the IAL designation process, which he estimates will take two years.

“When do you do planning 101 for the council?” Kaua‘i County Councilman Tim Bynum asked, which was followed by a round of applause.

“I think we have to engage all parties,” Kim said.

More than 70 concerned citizens filled the room, which Kim saw as a good sign, when asked after the meeting in an interview.

“There’s a lot of energy and it’s good to see the citizens in the community are interested,” he said, noting that the “uncertainty of the future” is what is driving the concern.

“That’s what planning is: managing uncertainty,” Kim said.

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