WKEP finds no long-term damage in draft environmental assessment – The Garden Island

Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 | Today’s Paper | light rain 79.79°

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Courtesy of Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative
Puʻu ʻOpae Reservoir mauka of Kekaha is seen during sugar operations. It is one of three existing reservoirs that would be incorporated into the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s West Kaua‘i Energy Project.
Courtesy of Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative
The intake gate at Kawaikoi Diversion in Kokeʻe State Park is seen. The West Kaua‘i Energy Project would renovate and utilize a series of irrigation ditches throughout the area to produce electricity.

WAIMEA — A draft environmental assessment for the West Kaua‘i Energy Project expects no long-term adverse impacts would result from the proposed construction.
The Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative is behind the plan to build and operate a renewable-energy and irrigation system on state lands approximately four miles north of Kekaha and six miles northwest of Waimea following Waimea Canyon Drive.
Facilities would include solar photovoltaic and hydroelectric generators and storage to meet the island’s energy needs during cloudy weather, nighttime and peak morning and evening hours.
The draft EA was prepared for KIUC and its renewable-energy partner, AES, by Honolulu-based engineering firm SSFM International, Inc.
“Based on the analysis of potential impacts to the surrounding environment and resources and a review of the significance criteria … the Proposed Action is not expected to result in adverse long-term impacts, thus a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is anticipated,” the draft reads.
“Any impacts would be during the construction phase, which would be short-term, temporary and minimized to the extent practicable through the implementation of BMPs (best management practices).”

Such short-term impacts include a potential temporary reduction in water quality due to soil erosion and equipment contaminates; minor vegetation clearing; the removal of certain trees and shrubs; and the effects of loud noise and lights on nearby animals and people.
Construction should not come into contact with archaeological or burial sites, according to the document.
“Due to the Proposed Action’s location in previously disturbed areas and along the very-steep bedrock cliff face, the probability of uncovering subsurface deposits during excavations is very low,” the draft EA explains.
In addition to cutting fossil-fuel usage by 8.5 million gallons per year, the project’s renovation of plantation-era irrigation ditches and reservoirs would further a separate plan for Native Hawaiian homesteads on 230 acres in the area.
“The ability to successfully implement the Pu‘u ‘Opae Kuleana Homestead Settlement Plan is heavily dependent on and intertwined with the successful implementation of the West Kaua‘i Energy Project,” the draft reads, claiming the project will create the infrastructure necessary for the planned homestead lots.
“Stated in the alternative … if the West Kaua‘i Energy Project is not implemented, it will be unlikely that other financial resources will be provided to DHHL (state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands) to allow for a timely implementation of the Pu‘u ‘Opae Kuleana Homestead Settlement Plan,” according to the draft EA.
The state Office of Environmental Quality Control published the draft EA on Monday. The public has until Sept. 22 to comment on the document, which is available online at health.hawaii.gov/oeqc/ and westkauaienergyproject.com/. A revised, final environmental assessment will then be submitted to the OEQC for publication.
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Scott Yunker, general assignment reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or syunker@thegardenisland.com.
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