Dairy Farm proposal is no gift to Kauai residents

Recently, while reviewing retirement areas, I started evaluating Kauai as a place to spend my remaining years.

As I began my review of land, homes, or other residential possibilities I was dumfounded by a short page I saw on a website. It was a glowing announcement of a 2,000 grass fed dairy cow operation on the island. I am familiar with milk cows. I know clearly the distinct difference in range cattle and milk cows. In the years of my youth I have ridden out and spent days bringing down cattle from grazing areas. I also know the chore of hand milking cows in 5 degree below zero weather.

One could go into animal units and grazing needs but a simple tug on the beard of Santa Claus generally is enough to know that at least that particular Santa is not real. I’m not a dairy man but don’t need to be when one considers so many of the overlooked, buried or ignored categories that a basic, objective, factual Environmental Impact Study would have pointed out at the first “tug on the beard.”

I respect deeply the character of the Hawaiian people. Told the truth, they will sacrifice any thing for that truth. How this project got past a permitting stage begs credibility. The downside of this project is it being a flawed plan, one that would significantly insult a world famous environment. Forever!

Basically, simply, it won’t work as described and one question, who told them that it, would? A second question for later is: “Why did the Kauai people let this get this far?”

In actuality, this project is a too large, consolidated/ contained feed lot, dairy concept posing as a grazing cattle one. What is a sensible grazing/carrying capacity for this property could have been answered by  those ranchers that have been grazing it up till now. In far better conditions for grass fed grazing are the fields of New Zealand, yet their average load is 749 animal units to 464 acres.

 The average citizen, when thinking of a dairy cow, has in mind a bucolic pasturing scene with two or three milk cows peacefully grazing near a gently running, crystal clear creek in the background, a big rustic red barn, small white farm house, statuesque oak trees with leaves just turning autumn red or gold, a little girl on a swing, mother by the clothsline, dad in bib overalls just barely seen as he unloads with his fork, a horse drawn hay wagon.

Not anymore, if ever. Unless on a high hill, you will smell it before you see it. We’re talking 2,000-plus  animal units to start with. Add in that like amount of calves born each 14 months and the volume of manure and urine per day is staggering.

In that respect perhaps a comparison with a human is necessary. A lactating cow will produce 37 times more urine and feces per day than a human being. (Rock Point Dairy Rapid Health Assessment May 2011). As you read this paper, keep in mind we are talking the equivalent of what 74,000 people per day would leave on the ground if no sanitation facilities were present. More people than the entire population of Kauai. Think of it. During two weeks of an active rainstorm the equivalent dumpage on the ground by this dairy is equal to what 1,036,000 persons would leave if all went potty on the ground. That is almost the entire state of Hawaii. Then here comes the hot days.

 Many significant concerns, including destruction of endangered species, reduced quality of life, depleted property prices and subsequent tax loss, new construction of roads to meet heavy tonnage transportation, hauling limits of roads, direction of waste removal/disposal etc. The most apparent and acute danger is the continual environmental threat. We have seen too many “woops” — “I spilled raw, sewage around/ over the reef.” There needs to be proper handling of the daily high tonnage of waste products. An example would be when the EPA found that two-thirds of the dairies in New Mexico were contaminating the groundwater by excess nitrogen from cattle excrement.

 Review your own press: 2012: LIHUE — “The U.S. Agriculture Department has designated Kauai County as a natural disaster area due to a severe drought, which has lasted for more than eight straight weeks during the growing season.”

Posted, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. The Garden Island. LIHUE — The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for the islands of Kauai, Niihau and O‘ahu. The result is a band of heavy rain in an unstable moist air mass ahead of the front, the service reports. There is also a chance of thunderstorms, which would create intense rain rates, increasing the likelihood of flash flooding.

The promoters of this dairy scheme must truthfully answer the following question. When these not unusual conditions occur to the island, what has this large scale dairy proposed to do to assure these conditions do not harm/ never happen to the eco-system all around them?

 Kauai could sustain both this dairy, it’s pristine Garden Island, reputation and the quality of life which has made it a world renowned tourist destination. But not with this being in its present proposed spot of the garden.

It is not the quintessential dairy farm which our legislators had in mind when they developed the Right to Farm laws.

This proposed dairy has an obligation to isolate themselves far enough away, allowing the dispensing of a noxious odor in a manner that it does not invade residences and public area where people live, work or play.

This excerpt from CNN gives a clue to the distance it can reach: LONDON, England (CNN) — “A foul smell permeating London and parts of England over the past two days is due to farmers on the European continent spreading manure in their fields, forecasters and British farmers said Saturday. Experts say the inescapable farmland smell permeating London will stick around for a couple of days.”

The New Zealand grass-fed model has been touted as the latest way to get milk and is the model to be used on the Grove farm property next to Mahaulapu beach. Simple, right? Just an endless stream of milk. Let’s talk about another “stream” that will happen. Reuters News service: “New Zealand’s strong environmental reputation, has been a significant cause of poor river quality due to fertilizer and effluent runoff. Unlike many other countries, New Zealand cows are kept on grassy pastures year-round.”

We all love (kind of) the chickens but not the certain damage, pollution and smell of a poorly located mammoth dairy farm. Put this giant-size dairy in the area where it presently is sited and that blemish would forever degrade and threaten the entire reputation of one of the truly last paradises that exist.

This project is full of serious questions that cannot be left unanswered or only to be answered by the pat explanations of the dairy lobby. This proposal appears to have failed a due diligence effort  when the need for due diligence has never been stronger A careful scrutiny of the myriad of details has never been more critical to a Kauai project. As it is now presented, this proposed project insults the well-thinking Kauai citizens with its canned responses and warm fuzzy promises. Hawaiian citizens deserve a full review, not a head nod.

I challenge the promoters of this project to face a committee of dairy experts, grazing experts, and ecological experts and include in that committee those who already have a collective hundreds of year’s experience of grazing this 580-acre area, to set aside the pat assurances/ cliches of the dairy lobby and turn to objective, data-based experts from our agricultural colleges.

At present, let those pushing this project spend more money on their proposed solar power project. For now, those of you who bought in, take note to never again be sold by the manner by which brought you to support this project.

• Ronald John is a frequent visitor to Kauai  and is today a resident of San Luis Obispo, Calif.

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