Please join West Kauaʻi in demanding an Environmental Impact Statement on KIUC’s new plan for hydro-electric facilities on Waimea River.
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Deadline: October 10, 2022
Read Environmental Assessment
Citing the need for new “firm” sources of clean energy, the Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) is proposing to build a huge new hydro-electric facility using water from Waimea River. The document they released for public comment raises more questions than answers, pointing to the critical need for a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Your help is needed to ensure KIUC’s proposal does not cause another century of harm to Native Hawaiians, native stream ecosystems, and truly sustainable forms of agriculture all in the name of “clean” energy. Please help the people of West Kauaʻi hold KIUC accountable for promises they are making now and past promises left unfulfilled. Add your voice to the call for an EIS by emailing DLNR your comments by October 10th to lauren.e.yasaka(at)hawaii.gov.
This project requires the thorough analysis of an EIS because it:
- Proposes to fix up old sugar plantation diversions, and use them divert 11 million gallons of water a day from the Waimea River,
- Would require several very significant government approvals, including a long-term water lease (KIUC is asking for 65 years!), a Conservation District Use permit, and a Clean Water Act permit,
- Would have significant environmental justice impacts for the people of West Kauaʻi,
- Would require using heavy construction equipment in the river and in important habitat for protected and endangered species, and
- Could affect ʻiwi kupuna and important historic sites.
Top 10 Critical Questions Raised by KIUC’s New Proposal
What is the actual amount of water available in the stream?
KIUC uses very optimistic modeling to suggest there *may* be enough water in the stream to support diverting 11 million gallons every day for the hydro-electric facility. Yet, all projections show reduced rainfall and prolonged droughts in the area, which means there is less water in this watershed. Will there be enough water available to support a flow-through hydropower plant and diversified agriculture at the end of that pipe? An EIS should analyze whether there is enough water available to fulfill this project proposal while also keeping the streams healthy, and the impacts to ratepayers and the environment of reduced water availability due to climate change.
What is the quality of the water that would flow through this system?
KIUC’s current analysis assumes the water flowing through this renovated plantation system will be “clean Kokeʻe water.” Yet, nearby water quality testing shows legacy contamination from years of pesticide use in the area. Shouldn’t KIUC be required to test the water for pollution before it is released into the environment? A full EIS would require KIUC to actually study the quality of the water flowing through its system. This is critical information decisionmakers must know before proceeding with this project since the hope is to use the 11 MGD of water flowing through the hydropower plant for kalo cultivation and other diversified agriculture on the Mānā Plain.
What is the impact of this new proposal on the nearshore fisheries of West Kauaʻi?
Healthy fisheries are critical to an overall healthy environment and healthy community in West Kauaʻi. Unfortunately, decades of sugar plantation diversions dumping polluted water on the Mānā Plain has seriously impaired the quality of the marine environment along the coast of West Kauaʻi. Polluted run-off has severely damaged the nearshore fisheries in this area. How would KIUC’s new flow-through hydropower proposal affect the marine wildlife of West Kauaʻi? What impact will new run-off and reduced stream flows have on fisheries? A full EIS would analyze the health of these critical resources and affect a flow-through system would have on them.
Aren’t consumptive uses of stream water required to do an EIS?
KIUC is proposing to divert and never return between 2 and 26 million gallons of water from the Waimea River depending on availability; this works out to a rolling daily average of 11 million gallons measured annually. Because they would be using old sugar plantation diversions, the system will not return water to the river it is taken from. This is a consumptive, extractive use of water. Consuming public trust stream water in this way requires the highest level of public trust scrutiny. For this reason alone, an EIS is required for this proposal.
How can we trust that automatic stream gates will ensure minimum streamflows?
Since 2017, stream diverters – like KIUC, ADC, and KAA, — have struggled to comply with promises to install stream gauges and comply with Phase I minimum stream levels. Yet, they expect people to trust that automatic flow gates will be enough to ensure that future minimum stream levels will be satisfied. Where else have these automatic gates been used? What is the rate of success for these gates? What is the risk of damage to these high-tech stream gates from storms, vandals, and ungulates? What about the water ADC/KAA already waste from the Kekaha Ditch system? Would this new hydroproject just amplify the water wasting challenges inherent in this old, poorly designed system?
What will the Waimea River be like in 65 years?
KIUC wants to secure a 65-year lease to the water for this new hydropower plan. With the dramatic changes in climate that West Kauaʻi is already experiencing, it is very difficult to predict the conditions of this watershed in 65 years. A full EIS would at least help give decisionmakers a more robust analysis of the uncertainties of such a long lease term.
What are the impacts of this project compared to a free-flowing Waimea River?
KIUC’s current analysis compares the impacts of their project proposal to the current, diverted condition of Waimea River. This is called “shifting the baseline” and it is one way to make significant impacts appear less damaging to the stream ecosystem and the community around the stream. An EIS would compare the impacts of this proposal to Waimea River in its natural state, not its condition as a diverted river during the plantation era.
How does this proposal compare to the other options for fulfilling Kauaʻi’s need for firm, clean energy?
KIUC’s current document barely considers the many other approaches to producing firm, clean energy on Kauaʻi. For example, what if KIUC relied on a pump-storage model of energy production that did not require the flow through of 11 MGD on average, or was tailored to the amount of water actually needed for agriculture? An EIS would fully analyze the pros and cons of various alternatives to achieving their stated goals.
Who is this energy for? What are KIUC’s commitments to the community?
Diverting a community’s river causes significant harm to the ecosystem and community that relies on that river. To divert the river in order to produce electricity for people living far from that river creates inequity in Kauaʻi’s energy system. KIUC should not divert an ounce of water without first ensuring the people and environment surrounding the Waimea River are well taken care of. The EA offers to create a “bird preserve” by pouring stream water onto the ground; that does not care for the people and resources harmed by this new hydropower proposal. What is the full extent of the community benefits package KIUC is committing to the people of West Kauaʻi? Who is responsible for ensuring KIUC delivers on these promises for the duration of this proposal.
How does this proposal affect my electricity rates?
With the highest electricity costs in the Northern Hemisphere, Kauaʻi ratepayers deserve a full analysis of how this project will affect overall utility bills. KIUC is optimistically projecting each ratepayer will see a $5 reduction in their monthly bills, based on maximum diversions. What is the basis for this amount? Will residents of West Kauaʻi receive any additional rate reduction in exchange for hosting this industrial facility?