Oahu residents hold peaceful protest against wind turbine project
KAHUKU, Hawaii - Many O'ahu residents participated in a peaceful protest on Sunday night. They gathered at Kahuku District Park, the site where industrial turbine company AES plans to build eight 568-foot turbines. The group is upset because the project, called Na Pua Nakani, is a third of a mile from Kahuku Elementary School and neighboring residents.
The protest is a result of ten years of community opposition "during which time the government failed to act to protect Kahuku residents from the harm these turbines will cause to residents and wildlife," according to organizers. "This small town of 2,300 people will be surrounded by 20 industrial turbines and unfairly bear the burden of having 40% of all the existing turbines on O'ahu in its backyard."
Kanani Ponciano explains, "What other community on O'ahu is surrounded by this many monster turbines? Other areas may have the money to fight these large companies. Kahuku doesn't. This is environmental injustice."
The group calls itself Ku Kia'i Kahuku, or the protectors of Kahuku, and says community members want access to safer forms of renewable energy, such as expanded access to rooftop solar, because PVs do not cause harm to people, the environment, and wildlife. They say they worry about children suffering irreversible health effects as they are especially vulnerable to noise pollution and infrasound.
In related news, Keep the North Shore Country is requesting the Department of Transportation and the Department of Land and Natural Resources to suspend permits allowing oversized/ overweight trucks to carry wind turbine materials for Na Pua Makani.
"Na Pua Makani's Wind Power project in Kahuku plans to transport its massive wind turbine components by closing down roads from Kalaeloa Harbor near Campbell Industrial area through the H-2 and Kamehameha Highway. Because the loads are oversized and overweight, permits from the DOT are required. The permits include authorization to move the oversized trucks with their overweight loads of over 55 tons across several historical bridges including Paumalu Bridge which is presently rated to only support 15 tons.
"State law, however, requires the Department of Land and Natural Resources to authorize the special use of historic properties such as Paumalu Bridge, but no such approval has been obtained. In fact, the DLNR has not even established a process to approve such requests.
"North Shore residents are concerned that the transports could irreparably damage the already precarious historic Paumalu bridge -- which is slated to be rehabilitated in 2021 -- as well as potentially sever the North Shore community into two if the bridge fails and renders the highway over," says the groups attorney, Lance Collins.
The state DLNR says it has nothing to do with the transportation of equipment, thus has no comment. HDOT Deputy Director Ed Sniffen Highways Division says, "We are in receipt of the letter. It is in review. HDOT issued permits as the applicants have fulfilled all process requirements, and all HDOT facilities, historic or otherwise, have been determined to have sufficient capacity to safely handle the loads anticipated."
Mark Miller, Chief Operating Officer for the AES US Generation businesses, responds with, “Na Pua Makani is important for Hawaii’s renewable energy future. When operational in 2020, our wind farm will produce enough renewable energy to power 16,000 homes throughout Oahu.
After performing extensive studies and securing all of the necessary permits, we are confident that we are building a project that is safe and, ultimately, will help Hawaii meet its renewable energy goals.
The next step for the project is to transport the turbine parts to the project site. Transport starts Sunday night and will be conducted only during the overnight hours - 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., Sunday nights through Friday mornings – in order to minimize traffic impact to residents along the transport route.
We appreciate the Honolulu Police Department’s professionalism and thoughtful execution to ensure the roads remain safe for all during our transport process. Together with HPD and the Department of Transportation, we are working in close collaboration with EMS and the fire department to ensure that our trucks don’t ever obstruct their access during an emergency situation. Real-time road closure updates are available at napuamakanihawaii.org; email or text notifications of road closures and conditions can be requested at hidot.hawaii.gov.
We are deeply committed to being good neighbors to the residents of Kahuku. We remain in close touch with folks throughout the North Shore community – including those who have lingering questions about our project. We are here and ready to talk to anyone interested in learning more.”