Malama Maha’ulepu opposes dairy proposal

Following months of careful scrutiny, research and deliberation, Malama Maha’ulepu has decided to formally oppose Hawaii Dairy Farms’ proposed operation in Maha’ulepu Valley. We wish to clearly articulate our position for opposing this dairy, explain how we arrived at our conclusion and share our next steps with the community.

From our inception, Malama Maha’ulepu has been a staunch advocate for safe, sustainable agriculture. We supported landowner Grove Farm’s agricultural master plan in 2008, including the utilization of existing sugar infrastructure to raise taro, vegetables, and orchard crops. We also supported the Important Agricultural Lands designation for the Valley and we have kept an open mind since the dairy became public last year.

We have sought to carefully balance two goals:

w maintaining the tradition of historic agriculture and food production;

w protecting the natural resources of the aina and waters.

In the spirit of ensuring harmony between these goals, we made our best efforts to work in good faith with HDF and stakeholder groups to find solutions that would keep agriculture thriving alongside environmentally sound business practices here on the island.

In particular, we have strived for a transparent and understandable framework that protects this community’s aina, waters and people. We sought detailed assurance that the infrastructure and operating systems would be in place to address ground, stream and ocean water quality, air quality, odor control and pest management. Such a framework would show that HDF heard valid community concerns

We have raised questions about the herd size, choice of forage, usage of community water supply, effluent management, depth of the water table, soil constraints and lack of an archaeology study. We have researched best dairy management practices while seeking feasible alternative methods, ways to minimize potential impacts, and actual closed loop systems. We have suggested alternative dispute resolution strategies such as joint fact finding, creation of good neighbor agreements, and the issuance of an environmental remediation bond. At this time our questions remain unanswered and our suggested strategies were declined.

HDF has not meaningfully engaged in addressing the numerous flaws in the currently proposed operation. HDF says that the herd size has been reduced to 699, but their management plan is clear that the herd size will soon be 2,000. The plan does not state what factors would either allow or constrain herd growth. Meanwhile, the dairy will be expanding as soon as cows arrive because milking cows must be pregnant to sustain lactation.

We have concluded that above all else, the carrying capacity of the land cannot support an operation of HDF’s size. Indeed, it remains to be proven that the land can or should support a dairy of any size. This industrialized dairy is not compatible, sustainable nor appropriate agricultural use for Maha’ulepu. HDF’s proposed dairy poses serious environmental risks and health hazards which threaten Maha’ulepu’s beautiful and ecologically unique, and culturally significant, coastline. We agree that Hawaii must continue to make steps towards self-sufficiency, but these steps must be calculated to ensure the protection of our precious resources.

We recognize the operation is still under review by the Department of Health, and modifications may be suggested or required. However, we are not hopeful that HDF will lessen the intensity of this operation substantially.

Malama Maha’ulepu supports Kawailoa Development LLP’s lawsuit against HDF. We believe a court-ordered Environmental Assessment is the best chance the community has of ensuring the integrity of these critical lands. Hawaii’s Revised Statutes provide a robust regulatory framework that ensures the protection of both the environment and the vital economic interests of farmers. The law requires a hard look at the environmental consequences of proposed actions and mandates that all reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts be addressed.

In the coming weeks, MM will be circulating a petition: Until and unless an EA ensures that any proposed dairy operates within the carrying capacity of Maha’ulepu Valley, we oppose the industrial dairy operation as it is not compatible, sustainable nor appropriate ag use for Maha’ulepu Valley.

We will launch this effort on Saturday, Sept. 20, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Poipu Beach Park. We invite community members to join our board and steering committee in signing and circulating the petition. Come by to talk story, ask questions, share information, and enjoy the natural beauty of our island’s south shore.

Malama Maha’ulepu is working to preserve, for future generations, the irreplaceable natural and cultural resources of Maha’ulepu. We believe that the Kauai community and its visitors deserve the continuing experience of this beautiful and historic place as an undeveloped area with compatible agricultural, educational and recreational uses.

Greg Peters is coordinator of Malama Maha’ulepu

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