UPDATED 4/20/12 4:05 p.m.

Ameron Quarry in Kailua received the highest score in a double-blind analysis of 11 potential sites for the city’s next landfill.

The results were revealed Friday and are the emotional if not technical end of a year-and-a-half process to rank locations. The work involved a consultant, R.M. Towill, who knew the sites but not the ranking criteria and a panel of residents who picked the criteria but weren’t told which sites were under consideration until today. This is what they came up with:

Location Score
Ameron Quarry 675
Upland Nanakuli 1 583
Upland Kahuku 1 572
Upland Pupukea 1 543
Keaau 543
Upland Pupukea 2 521
Upland Kahuku 2 514
Kapaa Quarry Road 507
Kaneohe by H3 498
Upland Laie 498
Upland Hawaii Kai 451

Source: R.M. Towill presentation to Landfill Site Selection Committee

The rankings and a full report will now head to the mayor, who can decide which site to move forward on.

“I think it’s fair,” said committee member David Arakawa, who arrived right at the end of the meeting and wasn’t there when the rankings were announced. “It reflects not putting a dump where people live.”

A month ago, the committee identified keeping the landfill away from residential areas as the top criteria among the 19 it weighted to come up with scores. Other factors included proximity to the HPOWER waste-to-energy facility, surface water runoff issues and impacts to traffic, among others.

UPDATED Honolulu City Council Vice Chair Ikaika Anderson, who represents the Kailua area, told Civil Beat he was surprised by the news “given its close proximity to a state wildlife refuge, the amount of money it will cost to condemn it as well as turn it into a landfill, the distance from Waimanalo Gulch and Central and Leeward Oahu where the growth is going to be and the fact that it will put many of our local people out work.”

Some members of the committee immediately raised concerns about what it would cost for the city to buy the property that right now holds an operating rock quarry. Property tax records show the assessed value of the 378-acre parcel at 909 Kalanianaole Highway was nearly $2.5 million as of October 2011. But one community member, Shannon Wood, estimated it would cost “close to $100 million” to secure it.

Wood, of the Windward Ahupuaa Alliance, said she worried not only about cost but also about the environmental impacts to the nearby Kawainui Marsh and the impacts of driving waste from town and ash from H-POWER.

There have been prior attempts to put a landfill at the Kailua quarry, and Ameron protested that doing so would drive up concrete prices dramatically. Ameron’s CEO, Wade Wakayama, joined Anderson at an afternoon press conference to talk about the negative impacts.

“I’d just like to remind the administration that there are many problems with this potential site, not because it’s in my district but because the specific location where it’s situated,” Anderson told Civil Beat afterward. “If there was a parcel that was in an empty field somewhere that was in our council district, that was publicly owned, that wasn’t under water a majority of the time like this one is, then we’d have to take a serious look at it. But to the best of my knowledge, no such site exists in Council District 3.”

Ameron Hawaii Environmental and Community Relations Manager Linda Goldstein said the company was “disappointed that we were so high on the list.” She said losing the site to a landfill would not only impact the 75 to 100 emloyees who work at the quarry but would also create major problems for the island’s entire construction industry because Ameron produces over 2 million tons of rock each year that’s used as road base material, asphalt and concrete.

“We really think that we are an essential part of the community growth and maintenance on the island,” she told Civil Beat. “While we understand that there is a need to find additional landfill sites, we don’t think this was the wisest decision they could make.”

She said the company currently stores more than a billion gallons of water in the older of its two pits and doesn’t have another spot on the parcel it could move its process equipment to. Basically, it’s not willing to negotiate.

“We don’t have a price,” she said. “It wouldn’t be a friendly condemnation.”

Predictably, Leeward Oahu leaders were uplifted by the rankings. Committee member Tesha Malama immediately touted the positive aspects of the Ameron site — specifically the multiple highway access routes. City Council member Tom Berg was elated after the results were announced because no site from his Leeward Oahu district was at the top of the list. Nanakuli is No. 2 and Keaau is No. 5.

“It was a blind test to say, ‘Let’s not play neighborhood versus neighborhood. Let’s do this blindly,'” Berg told Civil Beat afterward. “And when the veil came off and we saw who’s behind the curtain, this is what we got, so let’s go with it. No. 1 is where No. 1 is. Let’s move on No. 1. Why not? Let’s not balk. Let’s not shuffle the cards all over again.”

It wouldn’t be unprecedented for the cards to be reshuffled.

UPDATED Mayor Peter Carlisle in a statement through his office thanked the volunteers for their efforts and noted that their role is “purely advisory.”

“My proposed budget for next year includes money to analyze these potential sites in more detail. The detailed analysis is expected to begin soon after the budget is adopted in June,” his office wrote in a press release. “After that, the decision regarding a new landfill will still be up to the administration and City Council, with ample opportunity for public comment. Selecting, acquiring, permitting and preparing a new landfill site could take seven years or longer.”

When a similar committee was convened nearly a decade ago to complete a similar task, the results faced controversy after Waimanalo Gulch was removed from consideration. The City Council later decided to continue sending trash to Waimanalo Gulch despite the objections from Ko Olina residents.

(Read the background on those prior problems from Civil Beat’s coverage of this committee’s first meeting: Dump DéJà Vu)

When the 2011 committee went over the executive summary of the report it’ll soon send to the mayor, it made very clear that Waimanalo Gulch was not considered this time, either.

That doesn’t mean that the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill will necessarily be closed anytime soon. It would be at least a few years until a new landfill was up and running, and the city is still petitioning the Planning Commission to allow it to continue to send municipal solid waste to Waimanalo Gulch past July 31.

If the commission agrees to eliminate the deadline, the matter would go to the Hawaii Land Use Commission. The Environmental Services Department has also asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to strike the deadline from the permit language.

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