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Dairy opponents deliver petition to Ige

LIHUE — Opponents of a proposed dairy in Mahaulepu hand-delivered a petition to Gov. David Ige Friday in hopes that he will take notice of community concerns surrounding the proposed Hawaii Dairy Farms operation.

“We have a big problem on Kauai,” the petition reads. “HDF must not be permitted to operate a dairy at Mahaulepu.”

The signature drive, which kicked off during an event last New Year’s Eve at Poipu Beach Park, garnered more than 3,300 signatures, according to Friends of Malaulepu President Bridget Hammerquist, who delivered the petition to Ige alongside several other activists.

The trip to Honolulu was partially funded by the Sierra Club, Hammerquist said. She said the Kauai Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation also supported the signature drive.

“We let the governor know that we really want a fair shake,” Hammerquist said. “We really want this scrutinized because we’re scared. We’re scared for our water. We’re scared for our community. It’s just not a safe place for a dairy.”

Amy Hennessey, HDF’s spokeswoman, said the organization’s mission is to bring fresh, local milk to Hawaii’s families while also helping to bolster Hawaii’s food security in an environmentally and financially sustainable way.

But opponents of the project are concerned it could expose the Mahaulepu area to pollutants. FOM, a nonprofit, is suing HDF, alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act. Specifically, the suit alleges that ongoing construction activities at the proposed dairy site are “reasonably likely to cause discharges of pollutants,” including dirt, debris, sewage sludge, rock and sand into Waiopili Stream and other nearby waterways.

Hennessey has said the only activity taking place on the site is the growing and mowing of grass for pasture and the installation of water quality monitoring wells and fencing. All pasture cultivation activities, including the installation of an irrigation system, are authorized under the Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Plan and are not subject to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System requirements because they are for agricultural purposes, she said.

“Our team of consultants is continuing work to prepare the voluntary Environmental Impact Statement and the draft will be published when the technical studies are complete,” Hennessey said in a prepared statement. “We remain committed to our pledge not to construct any dairy facilities until the EIS has been accepted by the regulators.”

She added: “It is disappointing and irresponsible that the Friends of Mahaulepu continue their efforts to create and sustain false fear, especially without waiting for the completion of the studies.”

There’s no definitive date yet for the publication of the draft EIS, Hennessey said. There will be a 45-day public comment period following its publication.

Hammerquist said she is happy HDF has agreed to move forward with an EIS. But she said she’s concerned that the study is not being done by an impartial organization.

“It’s not really very independent if the same person who developed the farm plan is doing an EIS proving it’s safe,” she said. “That’s why we told the governor we want a fair shake.

“We promised people that we would get this there and we were able to share our concerns. He seemed very interested.”

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the delivery of the petition.

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