Judge revokes dairy permits

LIHUE — A judge Tuesday revoked all developer permits and approvals for construction of a dairy in Poipu, pending an environmental assessment.

Judge Randal Valenciano granted Kawailoa Development LLP’s motion for summary judgment against Hawaii Dairy Farms that would require HDF to follow Hawaii Revised Statutes 343.

“The suit was filed because the dairy farm was beginning development and build out of the farm without first obtaining an environmental assessment,” said Bridget Hammerquist, president of Friends of Maha‘ulepu, an opponent of the proposed dairy.

The statute requires an environmental assessment at a minimum, and possibly an environmental impact statement, because HDF has, as part of the dairy plant, a wastewater treatment unit that will hold an exceedingly amount of manure and effluent.

“The law requires when you have something like that — a large collection in the open — you must consider the potential impact to the environment, you must study its feasibility and put before the decision makers the factual findings from the environmental assessment,” Hammerquist said.

The ruling stems from a suit filed by Kawailoa Development LLP, owner of the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, and the Poipu Bay Golf Course — a landowner three miles away from the proposed dairy.

Kawailoa claims its business, recreational, environmental and aesthetic interests would be adversely affected by the wastewater treatment unit, the dairy farm and its effluent ponds.

It claims the harm could be avoided with the preparation of an environmental assessment to assess the effects of discharge, odors and other pollution that could diminish the properties, and pose a potential health risk to employees and guests, endangered species and the natural environment.

HDF plans to develop a minimum 699-cow dairy on a 557-acre site in Mahaulepu Valley.

The rotational-grazing dairy system would use 100 percent of all manure on the site as natural fertilizer to grow grass, according to reports.

Hawaii Dairy Farms spokeswoman Amy Hennessey said HDF is “disappointed that the Fifth Circuit Court has effectively lumped our dairy into the same category as a wastewater treatment plant, thus setting a dangerous precedent for farmers and ranchers.”

“Today’s decision could force all future animal agricultural endeavors that are striving to be more sustainable and environmentally sensitive to produce an Environmental Assessment before beginning operations,” she said. “This environmental review has never before been required and would likely prove too onerous and expensive for the average farmer or rancher.”

HDF plans on appealing the decision.

“We are moving forward with our new Draft Environmental Impact Statement based on feedback from regulators, so this decision won’t affect us as much as it will affect smaller farming projects that cannot afford the increased costs from these new regulatory hurdles,” Hennessey said.

Valenciano said he’s not going to tell agencies how to decide, but he is going to tell them decisions should not be made until the administrative entities have the information the law wants them to have when it requires the environmental review, according to Hammerquist.

“We’ve been asking for this for as long as the owners of the Hyatt,” Hammerquist said. “We are very happy for them, with this result.”

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