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Hanapepe salt ponds threatened by growth of helicopter operations, USA

Practitioners of Pa‘akai, traditional salt-making, raised concerns over adverse impacts of tourist helicopter flights for many years. Their request for a contested case hearing on permits to expand operations, strongly supported by residents, was granted.


The last bastion of Pa‘akai, traditional Hawaiian salt-making, is threatened by growth of helicopter operations at Port Allen Airport, which is adjacent to the salt ponds and opened in the 1920s. Pa‘akai is hand-made unprocessed salt, exceptionally rich in ocean minerals and renowned by Hawaiians for health, healing and spiritual properties. From the 1800s into the twentieth century salt making took place on all the Hawaiian Islands as documented by land records and newspapers. Yet over time most of the lands used for salt making were lost to industrialization or sold. Hanapepe salt, made near the southern coast of Kauai island, is the only remaining traditionally cultivated salt in Hawaii. It is made in salt beds by highly skilled practitioners, all of whom belong to over 20 families who have passed the craft on through the generations and care for as well as cultivate the salt ponds. Hanapepe salt is not a commercial product; tradition dictates that it cannot be sold, it must only be gifted or in some cases bartered. Maverick Helicopters operates a number of facilities at Port Allen Airport, which were constructed without the requisite permits. A Special Management Area Permit issued by Kauai County in 2005 required the removal of all temporary structures, including sheds and shipping containers, associated with helicopter operations. This requirement was never complied with. Then in June 2019 the company sought permits after the fact for its activities. The firm denies that its activities have negative impacts on salt making. But the practitioners say dust and noise from airport operations, particularly helicopters, do adversely affect salt-making. Concerns over the helicopter operations are not just about loss of resources but also about loss of practice. Hanapepe salt ponds are one of the important cultural sites in Hawaii, an enduring site of traditional teaching. The matter was scheduled to go before the Kauai Planning Commission and salt-making practitioners worked to galvanize community members to oppose Maverick Helicopters’ applications for permits.[1]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Hanapepe salt ponds threatened by growth of helicopter operations, USA
Country:United States of America
State or province:Hawaii
Location of conflict:Kauai
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Ports and airport projects
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific commodities:Tourism services
hanapepe salt
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Maverick Helicopters, which provides helicopter flights from Port Allen Airport, operates a number of facilities at the airport which were built without the proper permits. Kauai County issued a permit requiring removal of a number of temporary structures in 2005 but this was not complied with. The firm seeks permits after the fact for its activities.[1] Maverick Helicopters also seeks permits for additional facilities: a mobile office trailer, concrete generator pad for a propane gas tank to replace a tank with less capacity and relocation of a shipping storage container to the north side of the facility. The company is also requesting permits to install a 4 foot high chain link fence and gates within the existing perimeter fencing.[7]

Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:22 families
Start of the conflict:2005
Company names or state enterprises:Maverick Helicopters from United States of America - Operates tourist helicopter flights over Kauai from its base at Port Allen Airport
Relevant government actors:Kauai County
Kauai Planning Commission
Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Hui Hana Pa‘akai
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
salt makers’ group Hui Hana Pa‘akai (entrepreneurs)
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Global warming
Other Environmental impactsdust from helicopter operations
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsIllnesses caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsLoss of traditional salt-making ponds
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Application of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Traditional salt-makers raised concerns over adverse environmental impacts of helicopter operations for many years, yet the firm operating the helicopter flights failed to comply with a permit issued by Kauai County in 2005 requiring removal of structures that had been built in the absence of a permit. A public hearing with testimony from about 80 salt-makers and residents, held in June 2019, supported by a petition with over 21.000 signatures, succeeded in securing intervenor status for the salt-making families. As a result the dispute will be considered in more detail and permits that would allow additional facilities enabling expansion of helicopter operations might not be granted.
Sources & Materials

[1] Trisha Kehaulani Watson: Saving The Last Hawaiian Salt Ponds, Civil Beat, 19 June 2019
[click to view]

[4] Salt Pond under fire, The Garden Island file, 24 June 2019
[click to view]

[5] Hundreds rally for salt ponds, The Garden Island file, 26 June 2019
[click to view]

[7] Helicopter tour firm’s permit bid opposed by advocates of Kauai salt ponds, Honolulu Star Advertiser, 26 June 2019
[click to view]

[8] OHA Testimony to Kauai Planning Commission 06.25.19 Item F.2.a RE Facility Expansion at Port Allen Airport, Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), 25 June 2019
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[2] Petition - Save Pa’akai Farming in Hanapepe
[click to view]

[3] Producing Salt on Kauai - KVIC-TV3 [Culture] [Agriculture], KauaiVisitorChannel, 11 October 2011
[click to view]

[6] Hanapepe’s salt farming families fight expansion of nearby helicopter tour company, excerpts of testimony at hearing on 25th June 2019, HAWAII NEWS NOW, 25 June 2019
[click to view]

Facebook - Protecting Pa'akai Farming at Salt Pond, Hanapepe
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected]
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:4322
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