Dairy plan hits snag

MAHA‘ULEPU — Hawaii Dairy Farms didn’t address several environmental concerns in its 2,600-page Final Environmental Impact Statement, according to the state’s Office of Environmental Quality Control.

The entity reviewed the FEIS at the request of the Hawaii Department of Health and returned with a recommendation of non-acceptance because of four instances in which environmental concerns were not addressed.

But, OEQC isn’t the entity that makes the final decision on accepting or rejecting the FEIS — that power lies with the DOH.

“The Department of Health requested a recommendation from OEQC as this is the first time the department will be acting as the designated decision-making agency for an EIS,” said Keith Kawaoka, deputy director of the DOH Environmental Health Administration.

Amy Hennessey, spokeswoman for HDF, said the company is disappointed with the OEQC’s recommendation, and is awaiting the final determination by the Department of Health.

“We are committed to moving this project forward, and we believe our plan to bring fresh, local milk to Hawaii families is sound,” Hennessey said.

The DOH’s decision is expected on Feb. 24, which is an eight-day extension past the regular 30-day statue for the approving agency’s decision to be rendered. The extension was requested by HDF and supported by DOH.

The environmental concerns in the OEQC’s recommendation include failure to respond to questions about mistakes in the documented history of the area as well as questions about run-off, water usage and land usage.

“The OEQC notes that the examples cited indicate a pattern where the applicant’s response to specific concerns raised in the EISPN (Environmental Impact Statement Preparation Notice) comment letter did not satisfactorily address the commenter’s concerns,” says the OEQC memo detailing the decision.

Hawaii Dairy Farms plans to build a maximum 2,000-cow dairy on 557 acres in the Maha‘ulepu Valley. According to the FEIS, the goal is to establish a sustainable, pastoral, rotational-grazing dairy farm.

The rotational-grazing dairy system would use 100 percent of all manure on the site as natural fertilizer to grow grass. What happens to that manure once it mixes with the irrigation water is a big concern for Friends of Maha‘ulepu, the entity that is fighting to keep the dairy out of Kauai.

“They didn’t address serious environmental concerns (in the FEIS),” said Bridget Hammerquist, president of Friends of Maha‘ulepu. “It’s aqua Fukushima waiting to happen.”

The site is too close to the beach and the system of ditches and streams coming from the dairy site will carry the manure and other runoff from the dairy to the ocean, FOM alleges.

FOM also alleges the site was once a swampy marsh and is peppered with freshwater springs that would be at risk for contamination should the dairy be constructed on that site.

HDF has built setback and vegetation barriers into their plan, which the company says will prevent run-off from reaching the ocean. Those barriers and setbacks are detailed in the FEIS. The FEIS also says the site currently drains 1.8 million gallons water daily from springs on the site, a high water table, and the seeps and drainage from the adjacent Haupu ridge.

“Add 1.9 million pounds of wet manure monthly, the expected waste from 699 mature cows, and the 2.93 million gallons daily of HDF planned irrigation, one can only imagine the significant bacteria and nitrate-laden mess that will be draining on to our Maha‘uelpu beach and into the ocean,” Hammerquist said. “What will protect our fresh and ocean water from contamination?”

Over the next week, DOH officials will be considering OEQC’s recommendation as they make their own decision on whether to approve the FEIS.

“The department will take OEQC’s recommendation into serious consideration as we continue to thoroughly evaluate and complete our decision on Hawaii Dairy Farm’s Final Environmental Impact Statement,” Kawaoka said.

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