I'm Sure People on the Edge of Homelessness In Lahaina Think It's Nice POTATUS Wants to Rebuild Gaza

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

It's the Biden way, after all, no?

Well...yes. 

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Hey, Jack - he's a busy guy. The Maui fires are so last year.

And there are no hordes of potential Democratic voters trashing college campuses and blocking major thoroughfares while wearing Hawaiian shirts. In Biden's world, the squeaky Hamasholes gets the grease.

Just to check up on how things were going, I thought I'd nose around the innerwebs and see what kind of bang-up job POTATUS and Co. were doing for Maui. You know, since the White House never mentions the island, things must be going great, right?

The fires destroyed almost than 4000 properties and displaced more than 13,000 people. Immediately after the fires, FEMA, which is still on the ground, had up to 8000 people living in local hotels because the housing shortage was so severe. As of March, those numbers were finally coming down.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said Wednesday some 3,000 people displaced by Lahaina's wildfires are still living in hotels more than seven months after the August blaze but that up to 30 people are moving to longer-term housing each day.

...Green told a news conference the state and federal government have lined up sufficient long-term rental units to shelter everyone who is currently in one of 11 hotels still housing survivors. The state and federal governments are also building some modular transitional housing units for displaced residents. Green said he expects all displaced residents will leave the hotels by July 1.

Nearly 8,000 Lahaina residents were living in 40 hotels in the days immediately after the fire.

...One issue now, Green said, is that many available rentals are not in West Maui, and some Lahaina residents have refused them because they want to stay near their jobs and their children's schools.

“A lot of people have been offered an apartment, housing, and have rejected it because it’s too far away from West Maui, or it didn’t suit their family circumstance,” Green said.

...The fire destroyed 3,971 properties and caused $4 billion to $6 billion in property damage.

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In April more temporary housing was coming online with an Army Corps of Engineers project in full swing helping out. The money numbers are staggering.

...Next week, the family will move into the two-bedroom, one-bath modular home, becoming the first fire survivors to live in the $9 million development called Ke Ao Maluhia for up to five years.

The 50-unit project — which is being paid for by the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund and being constructed on land the county acquired more than a decade ago in a settlement with a developer — is another piece of the complicated housing puzzle on Maui since the fires destroyed more than 2,100 structures and displaced 13,000 people.

...While progress is being made on these two projects — and on FEMA’s 169-unit group housing site in Lahaina that is expected to break ground within days — it will not be fast enough to meet the state’s July 1 deadline for people to vacate pricey hotels that were set up as emergency shelters following the fires.

As of Monday, 1,830 fire survivors in 725 households and their 159 pets were still housed in the hotel program run by the American Red Cross at a cost of about $56 million a month, Green said. That’s down 76% since the program’s peak, when 3,017 households were living in hotels.

FEMA's emergency housing program is now scheduled to end on Monday, and remaining residents who've been taking shelter in different hotels are already finding themselves locked out or scrambling for places to live.

They're also taking heat from people who were willing to sign the FEMA long-term agreements - and give up tourist dollars - and then found themselves with canceled FEMA  contracts out of the blue. In some of these cases, the government paid up to $8000 mth for these places to sit empty until they canceled. Just a frickin' cluster.

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Brendon Finnecy opened an email on Wednesday with the unexpected news that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had canceled his direct-lease contract to house Maui fire survivors in his Pacific Shores condo with an ocean view in Kihei.

“I was blindsided,” he said last week. “We signed up for the program, clearing out our calendar for a year in good faith that they would use it to help wildfire victims.”

Finnecy is not alone. Other property owners are getting the same cancellation notice as FEMA winds down its contribution to housing survivors of the Aug. 8 blaze in pricey resort rooms and into less costly direct leases.

...The ever-extending deadline is now June 10 for when FEMA will stop reimbursing the state for housing eligible survivors in the hotels, which at one point cost about $1,000 per household per day for lodging, food and “wrap-around” services. Gov. Josh Green’s administration has yet to provide a breakdown of those costs despite multiple public records requests and follow-ups.

...On Tuesday, FEMA sent an email that said eligible fire survivors now had to accept the direct-lease unit offered or be out of the program that provides free housing for a year and possibly up to two years.

Efforts to quickly rebuild desperately needed permanent housing are also being stymied by Mother Nature - Maui's own unique topography and climate. That west side of the island is really dry.

One of the first proposed projects - the 500 home Pulelehua project - is already running up against a rock and a dry spot. They've been told there's no water available.

...“We are approving clearly temporary housing on a case-by-case basis,” [Maui County Department of Water Supply Director John] Stufflebean said in an email Wednesday. But, Pulelehua “is permanent housing. We do not have sufficient source to serve permanently. We have no assurance that their wells will be permitted.”

Pulelehua developers have told Maui County they plan to develop their own wells for long-term supply, but the water quality in those wells is too salty and will require a reverse osmosis water treatment process to reduce and filter out high salt content, Stufflebean said in a phone interview Wednesday. That process leaves a residual discharge of brine that needs to be discharged properly in accordance with a permit issued by the state Department of Health.

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This has caused no end of conflict with the Maui County Council, who want housing and they want it, like, yesterday. The county water department is up against new state water commission requirements retaining some of the water from streams and ditches that was formerly available for Lahaina to maintain the health of those ecosystems, leaving less water for development and, consequently, impeding rebuilding from the fires.

That's nothing anyone wants to hear when people who've lost their homes and have property there want to rebuild.

...Stufflebean shared a copy of an 11-page, April 25, 2024, memorandum addressed to Council Chair Alice Lee, addressing municipal water use and demand in West Maui after the wildfires.

In it, he says that current reliable capacity in West Maui’s county system is 4.12 million gallons per day, often abbreviated as “mgd.” Current, post-fire water usage was 3.59 mgd, as of March 2024. The difference in current capacity of 4.12 mgd and current water usage of 3.59 mgd is 0.53 mgd, and that will be used temporary housing and reconstruction of Lahaina town, he said.

...Stufflebean notes that the County has reduced water available at its West Maui water treatment plants because of new water commission requirements imposed to meet interim in-stream flow standards. In other words, the commission has determined that more water needs to stay in West Maui streams, supporting healthy stream life but leaving less for human use and consumption.

Prior to the Aug. 8 fire, water demand in West Maui was 5.6 mgd, Stufflebean said. The County met that demand “by pumping the wells in excess of their reliable capacity and by using stream flows that will ultimately need to be reduced to leave water in the streams.”

There is no unused water in the County system in West Maui,” Stufflebean said. “In fact, the Department of Water Supply was preparing to declare a (water) meter moratorium prior to the fire, but since the post-fire demand has been temporarily reduced, this is not necessary at this time.”

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Well, yeah, there's a "temporarily reduced post-fire demand" because the whole frickin' place went up in flames.

So, what they're saying, if I'm interpreting this correctly, is that no one is going to be allowed to move back if they didn't already have a piece of property that had a meter? I mean, if you can't put a new water line in, and the county has "no unused water" right now even with residents still scattered to the winds, what are they going to do to solve this apparent impasse?

What does this mean for folks who lived in apartments? They still need a home, even if it's temporary. It's terribly confusing and has to be maddening when you've lost everything.

A non-profit threw up an 88-unit housing complex that's also been held up over "permitting" and the water issue, something even the governor addressed.

...There is also the 88-unit Ohana Hope Village in Kahului that was quickly put up by a nonprofit and can house up to 500 people displaced by the fires. It has been held up with permitting issues and other snags.

I have to go take a look to make sure there’s enough water,” Green said when asked about the project. “But I’ll look at it again. I’d rather see us err on the side of housing people.”

But even with these options and others, Green said he expects about 500 people will still be in hotels on July 1. He said it is his intention to “continue to make extensions wherever it’s necessary to keep people housed. It’s just fewer and fewer and fewer, thank goodness.”

I'm not sure what they're going to do. As the voice-over on this little drone footage says, they are approving Lahaina permits on an individual scale. The narrator/operator points out that two weeks ago, the very first permit was issued for a Lahaina resident to rebuild their home.

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Whoever the folks who got the permit are, they need to sacrifice a chicken or something.

Ten months after the fires, FEMA is its usual cluster flock with zero guidance coming out of D.C., and the state of Hawaii seems to be stepping on its own you-know-what between a prudent course of conserving available - and admittedly scarce - water resources while actively impeding the return of people to their rightful property because of favoring conservation. 

Talk about insult to injury.

Maui County is hoping for federal funding to do something about the water problem.

Now, I'm not a mathematician - I only play one here at HotAir - but it seems to me that when you're putting out $56M a month for hotel bills, a couple of wells or a smallish,  desalinization plant for the whole island might be something cheaper and easy an engaged president would be thrilled to tout as a good community investment.

...The plan centers on a series of major projects, including a deepwater port, a desalination plant to provide drinking water, an online health care service and a transportation corridor connecting Gaza with the West Bank. A fund for reconstruction and development would oversee future undertakings.

Only, you know, for AMERICANS.

What a concept.



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