Maui County Fair promoters weren’t the only ones relieved that Tropical Storm Kenneth missed Maui last weekend. Possibly even more worried were those building Maui’s first commercial wind farm and officials from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).
That’s because Kaheawa Wind Power LLC engineers currently grading the stretch of the Pali near McGregor Point have been failing to meet the conditions of their construction permit, numerous state officials told Maui Time Weekly on condition of anonymity. In fact, DLNR officials worried that a major storm like Kenneth could cause the newly excavated, non-compacted soil at the construction site to wash down over the Honoapi’ilani Highway and into the near shore reef at Ma’alaea. Officials also worried that construction storm runoff could cause an auto accident and close the Pali.
Responding to complaints from concerned citizens, Daniel Ornellas, the Maui Land Agent with the state Division of Land Management, conducted site visits to the construction site on Sept. 23 and Sept. 26 of this year. Apparently he didn’t like what he saw because just two days later, state DLNR Enforcement officer Randy Awo delivered a Cease and Desist Notice to Kaheawa, halting all construction.
Though such a notice is a public document, no DLNR official would release it to Maui Time by press time. DLNR spokeswoman Debra Ward would only confirm that state officials are conducting an investigation of the wind farm situation.
Contacted independently, DLNR Enforcement Officer Randy Awo went a bit further. “I support the Department’s decision to look further into this matter,” he said. “It’s important that we ensure that appropriate practices are in place to properly protect and manage our natural resources.”
The Kaheawa Pastures site, located between Ma’alaea and McGregor Point, sits on state conservation land. The Conservation District Use Permit (CDUP) granted to Kaheawa Wind Power by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources carries strict conditions that must be met to prevent any environmental damage.
“We respect DLNR’s position,” said Mike Gresham, the president of Makana Nui Associates, the minority partner of the Kaheawa wind farm project. “Our goal is to make everyone involved in this project proud of our work. We strive to not only adhere to the conditions of our permit, we want to exceed them.”
Gresham says they are working to mitigate the DLNR’s concerns. “We are terracing the dirt piles in excavated areas and putting in berms to prevent soil erosion into nearby waters,” he said. “We are adding rock screens to prevent rock fall and adding silt fences to prevent run-off… The Best Management Practices (BMPs) designed for the project by the State Department of Health and the project’s Civil Engineers were designed for normal seasonal rainfall, but not for a tropical hurricane or storm.”
Kaheawa Wind Power began construction on the southern slopes of the West Maui Mountains on Sept. 1. They are erecting 20 General Electric wind turbines at elevations ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 feet, which will provide Maui with a new source of alternative energy.
The company said its 20 General Electric wind turbines will generate 1.5 megawatts of energy for a total output of 30 megawatts of electricity that will be sold to Maui Electric Co. The wind power will supply up to nine percent of local demand.
Gresham couldn’t say how long construction would be on hold while his company works to mitigate DLNR’s concerns, but said the facility should be completed by April 2006. MTW