Revised plan won’t stop suit

LIHUE — The development company suing a proposed dairy to prevent it from being built said it’s not backing off the suit despite the dairy’s scaled down plans. 

Days after Hawaii Dairy Farm’s announcement Friday that it had modified its application to the Hawaii Department of Health to gradually phase in its proposed 578-acre dairy operation in Mahaulepu after listening to community concerns, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa and Poipu Bay Golf Course owner Kawailoa Development said it is still moving forward with the legal challenge.

HDF’s actions “do little to show that it has listened to the community or that it will comply with applicable laws,” Kawailoa wrote in a statement Monday. The revised plan, it said, makes very clear that HDF still intends to ultimately develop a 2,000-cow dairy in Mahaulepu Valley.

“Whether or not phased, the proposed operation by HDF has therefore not changed. It is essentially unmodified. It is the same project. It is still subject to the Hawaii (Environmental Impact Statement) law,” Kawailoa wrote.

In a lawsuit in 5th Circuit Court July 10, Kawailoa demanded HDF complete at environment assessment, claiming its interests would be adversely affected should the dairy move into the neighborhood. In the 12-page complaint, attorneys wrote that the resort owner relies on a pristine surrounding environment in order to attract and maintain its business, and that adverse impacts from the dairy, including pollution, odors and flies, pose a direct threat to the operation.

The resort and golf course are less than three miles from the proposed dairy site.

Spokeswoman Amy Hennessey said HDF, which is funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Ulupono Initiative, continues to work with DOH and the County of Kauai to ensure it is meeting all requirements under the law, and that it is unfortunate Kawailoa continues to question the regulatory process before it has been completed. 

“Kawailoa’s misguided interpretation sets a bad precedent for animal agriculture because it will create potentially devastating financial hardship for these farms when they want to start a new farm or expand and improve existing operations,” Hennessey said in a statement. “Existing dairies were not subjected to an (environmental assessment) and should not be, but could be if Kawailoa is successful.”

Hennessey added that the issue isn’t about one farm, but rather the farming community having the ability to farm, especially on Important Agricultural Lands as designated by the state, to produce local food for local people.

HDF’s modified plan initially calls for the introduction of 650 to 699 cows, or about 1.5 cows per acre. By dividing the operational plans into two phases, HDF says it is providing the community the opportunity to better understand the model as it demonstrates it will work in the valley. Once proven, HDF says it will move forward with its application for phase two for the full-sized dairy.

HDF’s revised plan also call for the construction of effluent ponds with an additional 100 days of storage capacity beyond regulatory requirements; an additional emergency containment berm and spillway; the implementation of consistent aeration schedules to control effluent pond odors; and expanded 50-foot setbacks to address runoff mitigation.

DOH spokeswoman Janice Okubo said the revised project plans have been received and are under review by the department’s Wastewater Branch. If an EIS were to be advised for the project, she said it would come through the office of Environmental Quality Control, which is an independent agency attached to the DOH.

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