MAHA’ULEPU — Hawaii Dairy Farms took a step back in its plan to put a dairy on Kauai by withdrawing its Final Environmental Impact Statement from state consideration on Tuesday.
That’s the more than 2,600-page document that analyzes the effects the planned minimum 699-cow dairy could have on the environment surrounding the 557-acre site in Kauai’s Maha’ulepu Valley.
“Hawaii Dairy Farms decided to withdraw its final environmental impact statement from consideration by the Department of Health to allow time to provide additional responses to comments per the new guidance received regarding the Office of Environmental Quality Control’s interpretation of the administrative rules,” said Amy Hennessey, spokeswoman for Hawaii Dairy Farms in a release Tuesday.
HDF also is also withdrawing it’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Stormwater Construction Permit application and will resubmit it when the EIS determination process has been completed, Hennessey said.
Opponents of the dairy plan, however, see the move as a chance to stop the dairy’s construction and hope that it will prompt HDF owner Pierre Omidyar and his staff to meet with them on Kauai.
“We hope that they will meet with us and receive our information and extensive research data directly before proceeding further with a project that significantly threatens our water, fresh and ocean, our health, our economy and our daily life style,” said Bridget Hammerquist, president of Friends of Maha’ulepu.
The withdrawal puts the HDF’s project on pause because in order to get a new FEIS approved by the state’s Department of Health, HDF may have to restart the two-year process.
But, DOH is acting as the receiving entity for the first time, so the process is still being worked out.
“It’s too early at this point for us to comment on the correct process, as this is the first time DOH is the receiving agency for an EIS,” said Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for DOH. “We need some time to determine the legal language before determining next steps.”
The language of Hawaii Administrative Rule 11-200-23, paragraph F is what’s on the table, which states:
“A proposing agency or applicant may withdraw an EIS by sending a letter to the office informing the office of the agency’s or applicant’s withdrawal. Subsequent resubmittal of the EIS shall meet all requirements for filing, distribution, publication, review, acceptance and notification as a new EIS.”
The Office of Environmental Quality Control is helping DOH sort out the details, according to Scott Glenn, director of the OEQC.
“The Department of Health is the decision maker on this, they’re the ones that have to be satisfied with the document,” Glenn said. “We’re an advisory body.”
The withdrawal comes just days after a Feb. 17 Office of Environmental Quality Control recommendation the Department of Health not accept the FEIS because some community environmental concerns weren’t fully answered.
DOH sent the document to OEQC for an opinion, because this is the first time DOH is the deciding agency in an FEIS.
OEQC recommended non-acceptance because HDF failed to respond to four main environmental concerns, including questions about mistakes in the documented history of the area as well as questions about run-off, water usage and land usage.
Just days before the recommendation was made to DOH, Hawaii Dairy Farms requested an eight-day extension of the 30-day deadline for DOH, making the deadline Feb 24.
Now that the FEIS has been pulled that deadline is moot, but Hennessey said the action doesn’t affect HDF’s goal of putting an industrial dairy in at Maha’ulepu.
“We are not giving up,” she said. “A new FEIS will be submitted when the consulting team feels it has been able to adequately respond to all comments per OEQC’s guidance.”