On Feb. 7, Hawaii’s U.S. Senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono, along with freshman 2nd District Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, announced that the County of Maui has won a technical assistance grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of the Agency’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program. Maui County was one of 43 communities selected from 121 applicants. Winners were chosen by the EPA in consultation with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Maui has been the site of major development in the past decades and there are no signs that the future will be any different. The EPA assistance aims to help manage Maui’s growth in “a way that encourages local economic development while protecting the environment and preserving Maui’s unique character,” states the Feb. 7 press release on the grant.
“EPA’s technical assistance will help the County of Maui make smart planning choices to protect the way of life on Maui while building a foundation for sustained economic growth in the decades to come,” says a statement from Schatz. “Managing growth in a way that is economically and environmentally sustainable is critical for Hawaii’s future. I congratulate Mayor Arakawa and the County of Maui.”
The federal assistance will be timely, as readers will note that last week MauiTime talked with Maui Redevelopment Agency members about the changes slated for Wailuku Town. At the same time, large shopping centers are proposed in Kihei and Kahului while new developments are popping up at the Kehalani and Maui Lani. Add the controversial Olowalu project, which Maui Biologist Pauline Fiene thinks endangers some of the most unique coral reefs in Hawaii, along with resident resistance to anything that threatens the local Maui lifestyle and it looks like the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities has its work cut out for them.
“Sustainability is an imperative for Hawaii–it is the right thing to do and it is essential for the future and security of all of our communities,” says Gabbard in a press release on the grant money. “Conservation of our land and protection of our water supply is critical, and we must make investments now to maintain our quality of life and economy. This grant assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency will help the County of Maui promote responsible growth while preserving its precious rural land.”
The Feb. 7 statement outlines the more specific goals of the program in the county. “The County of Maui will receive assistance to create a green streets strategy and develop sustainability strategies for small towns and rural areas,” it says. “Green streets capture and filter stormwater runoff with vegetation and soils instead of moving water in underground pipe networks. A green street decreases water pollution while beautifying neighborhoods with additional vegetation and also helps reduce flooding. The assistance for Maui’s small towns and rural areas will explore potential code changes that promote walkable communities and encourage investment in existing neighborhoods while preserving rural land and open space.”
More information on the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program can be found at Epa.gov/smartgrowth/buildingblocks.htm. There’s info about the Partnership for Sustainable Communities is atSustainablecommunities.gov.
Photo of solar-powered house at Universidad Politecnica de Madrid: Jeff Kubina/Wikimedia Commons