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Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Innovative State Programs: Hawaii

  • Charles Jencks
    Director of Public Works and Waste Management
    County of Maui
    2000 South High St.
    Wailuku, HI 96793
Maui County Erosion and Sediment
Control Training Project:

Workshops Explain Ordinance, Teach BMP Installation


Hawaii's Maui County includes the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai and thus many different watersheds that are diverse in geophysical features, soil types, rainfall, and coastal water uses. The State Department of Health lists the waters of West Maui, Kahului Harbor, and the South Molokai shoreline as water quality-limited segments because they often exceed nutrient and turbidity standards. Construction and grading projects were identified as the primary source of water quality problems.

Maui County's grading ordinance, last revised in 1975, did not specifically require the installation of best management practices (BMPs) to control erosion and sedimentation and did not require the posting of performance bonds for large projects. In addition, much grading work was unregulated because of exemptions in the grading ordinance for certain types of grading activities. Thus, construction and grading activities resulted in soil erosion, causing sediment and other pollutants to enter receiving water bodies. The Maui County grading ordinance needed to be revised.

Revising Maui County's grading ordinance

With support of 319 funding, a revised grading ordinance was developed to require erosion and sediment control BMPs for all construction projects, including minor work that does not require a permit. The County Council adopted this revised grading ordinance on August 10, 1998.

The revised ordinance met federal guidance under the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990. The provisions of the grading ordinance before and after the revision are summarized in the table. The major changes are the following:

  • All projects, even those that do not require grading permits, must use BMPs to control erosion, sedimentation, and dust to the maximum extent practicable.
  • Projects that aren't in the Special Management Area (SMA) and that have excavation or fill quantities of 100 cubic yards or more or exceed 4 feet in height require grading permits.
  • Projects in the SMA have stricter requirements. Grading permits are required when excavation or fill quantities are 50 cubic yards or more or when excavation or fill exceeds 2 feet in height. In addition, grading or mining a coastal dune is prohibited, as is importing soil for fill material in the shoreline setback area. Filling with sand is acceptable.
  • An erosion control plan showing BMPs to control erosion, sedimentation, and dust to the maximum extent practicable must be submitted with the grading permit application.
  • Grubbing and grading permit fees are revised in the annual budget.
  • New provisions require corrections for unpermitted earthwork and impose penalties when earthwork is started before a permit is issued.
  • A performance bond is required for all earthwork involving more than 500 cubic yards.
Raising awareness of the new ordinance

Another goal of the project is to train engineers, contractors, inspectors, and the public in planning and installing effective BMPs. Workshops were held on Maui, Molokai, and Lanai to explain the new grading ordinance, teach the procedures for deriving an effective erosion control plan, show the latest BMP technology, and discuss the proper methods for installing BMPs. More than 100 people attended the workshops and found them to be very informative and useful. The success of this project has inspired other counties in the state (Honolulu, Kauai) to revise or consider revising their erosion control standards to match Maui's efforts. 

  Existing Ordinance Revised Ordinance
Purpose To protect public health, safety, and welfare To protect/preserve the natural environment and protect water quality, and public health, safety, and welfare
  • Single-family residences < 4 acres
  • Regulated mining or quarrying
  • Agriculture, ranching, recreation, forestry, conservation in conformance with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts
  • Subsurface excavations for buildings and structures
  • Excavation, fill, stockpiling < 100 cubic yards and < 4 feet in height
  • Grubbing < 1 acre which does not affect drainage
  • Underground utility trenching
Grading Permits Required if grading > 5 feet in height
  • Required if grading > 100 cubic yards or > 4 feet in height
  • In Special Management Area: permit required if grading > 50 cubic yards or > 2 feet in height
Best Management Practices No minimum standards or controls required Required for all grading, grubbing, and stockpiling to maximum extent practicable (including limited exclusion activities)
Shoreline Provisions No shoreline grading provisions
  • Use of soil as fill is prohibited in shoreline area
  • No grading or mining of coastal dune
Permit Application
  • Tax Map Key (TMK) or street address
  • Start and end dates for grading
  • Responsible party
  • Plot plan
  • Also required:
  • Grading plan
  • Photographs
  • BMPs to prevent erosion and sedimentation to the maximum extent practicable
Drainage and erosion control plans Required for projects > 1 acre or grading > 15 feet height
Use of HESL erosion formula
Required if grading > 1 acre or > 15 feet height. Engineer's soils report required if grading > 15 feet. Emphasis on BMPs to prevent or reduce pollutant discharge. Hydraulic calculations per county drainage facility design standards.
Permit Fees $1 per 100 cubic yards (0 to 1000 cubic yards)$20 plus $2 for each additional 1,000 cubic yards (1,001 to 10,000 cubic yards) Pending proposed revisions to permit fee schedule (fees to be increased)
Penalties No penalty for grading without a permit Penalties for grading without a permit (doubling of permit fees or an additional $200, whichever is greater) and requirements to correct/restore on-site and off-site damages.
Performance bond may be required.
Bonding Bonding required at the discretion of the director Required for cut, fill, or stockpiling > 500 cubic yards or excavations of fill > 15 feet height, and for increments which are part of larger development


Wetlands, Oceans & Watersheds | Watershed Protection


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