An environmental assessment for an agricultural homestead community planned for Honomu found no significant environmental impact.
The Honomu Subsistence Agricultural Homestead Community, a project by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, would take 766 acres of Honomu land and lease 375 acres of them to Native Hawaiians — those with a 50% or higher Native Hawaiian blood quantum — for subsistence farming homesteads.
The remainder of the land would be set aside for other uses such as a community orchard, a supplemental agriculture field, several conservation zones that buffer the community from surrounding land and a small commercial area.
Currently, most of the land is comprised of former sugar plantation land and cattle grazing pasture.
According to the environmental assessment, which was published Friday in the state Department of Health’s Environmental Notice, the project is intended to alleviate the extremely long wait times on the DHHL’s agricultural waitlist — the top 500 applicants on that list applied for leases between 1952 and 1985. On Hawaii Island, 42% of DHHL beneficiaries waiting for a lease were on the agricultural waitlist in 2014.
Honomu was chosen as the project location because of the area’s good soil quality, high rainfall and accessibility.
A draft environmental assessment released in 2018 guessed the first phase of construction, consisting of up to 16 lots, could begin in 2019. Instead, DHHL will put out the bid for the first phase in early 2020 after submitting the project plans to the Hawaii County Planning Department in early December, said DHHL spokesperson Cedric Duarte.
The first phase of construction will cost approximately $2 million.
DHHL anticipates that the first leases will be awarded in early 2020. The full project will be constructed in phases during the course of 15 years.
“Honomu is a pilot project to implement the department’s new rules for subsistence agricultural lots,” said DHHL Chairman William Aila in a statement. “These lots will allow beneficiaries (to) live and cultivate their land while producing locally grown food for themselves and their families, all in fulfillment of Prince Kuhio’s vision. We are excited to work with the county in advancing this subdivision. I’m certain future lessees are looking forward to joining the existing Honomu community.”
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