County taking effort to go green to the streets with grant

Maui County has been awarded a grant for technical assistance to develop green streets strategies that would use a combination of vegetation and innovative engineering techniques to manage storm water, the Environmental Protection Agency and members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation announced last week.

“Our first step is to work with EPA staff and their private sector expert to conduct a Green Streets Strategy Community Audit, to get a baseline understanding of our local conditions and experience related to green streets,” said Public Works Deputy Director Rowena Dagdag-Andaya in an email Friday.

Green Streets Strategies include using bio-retention basins, planting native vegetation and installing rain gardens. She said the Valley Isle has much to learn from cities that are pioneers in these strategies, including Portland, Ore.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Philadelphia.

“We’re learning about different techniques and what other cities are doing with storm-drain-water management,” Dagdag-Andaya said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to make our communities more livable, walkable and safe.”

A team of EPA experts will work with the county and the community throughout the year, holding workshops in the spring that will hopefully build toward sustainability projects, she said. The program offers the technical expertise, but there are no funds that accompany the program to build the projects.

Hawaii Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie K. Hirono and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, whose district encompasses Maui County, applauded the county’s efforts in sustainability and conservation.

“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,” said Schatz. “Managing growth in a way that is economically and environmentally sustainable is critical for Hawaii’s future.”

Maui was one of 43 communities chosen from 121 applicants based on letters of interest, “clearly and directly articulated specific community needs and a logical explanation of how EPA’s assistance will efficiently lead to steps to implementation,” said EPA officials. A number of county departments, as well as the Nutrition and Physical Activity Coalition of Maui, met in October and provided one of the strongest letters of intent, said agency officials.

“Seeking the technical assistance was a group effort,” said Dagdag-Andaya. “Education and outreach are definitely things we want to share with the public. It’s a public process, and we’re learning what strategies work and don’t work. . . . Again, we’re really excited about it.”

The selection is part of the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities project, which is a collaboration with the EPA and several federal departments to help communities across the country create housing, improve transportation and support healthy neighborhoods.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.