Friends, HDF dispute consent decree impact

MAHAULEPU — Hawaii Dairy Farms has agreed to write a $125,000 check for streambank restoration and endangered species protection at the Makauwahi Cave Reserve.

HDF has also been ordered to halt development, construction and ground-disturbing activities at the site of its proposed minimum 699-cow dairy on a 557-acre site in Mahaulepu Valley until proper permits are obtained, according to a press release from Friends of Maha‘ulepu.

“There is finally a federal court order with a signed consent decree that prohibits any further development, construction, or ground disturbing activities at HDF’s proposed industrial dairy site in Maha’ulepu,” said Bridget Hammerquist, president of Friends of Maha‘ulepu.

A consent decree was filed in federal district court Wednesday by Judge Leslie Kobayashi.

In a federal court ruling in December, Kobayashi found that “Defendants engaged in activities pre- and post-complaint that required an NPDES permit,” according to a FOM press release.

“This order and consent decree require defendants to implement Best Management Practices to control and prevent runoff from the areas that were illegally disturbed,” Hammerquist said.

The installation of the BMPs, as well as any future ground work necessary to perform repairs, shall be monitored by FOM to ensure water quality protections are in place, the Friends’ release said.

HDF disagreed.

In a press release, HDF said the consent decree was the culmination of several months of settlement discussions between the parties.

“Both parties felt it was in their best interest to settle rather than go through a lengthy and costly trial,” HDF said.

HDF said “there is no conclusive evidence that established any discharges caused by HDF activities.”

“The order does not ‘require Defendants to implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) to control and prevent runoff from the areas that were illegally disturbed,’” HDF said.

The judge selected an independent third party monitor to observe any work needed on the existing water pipelines, HDF said.

HDF also agreed to fund a Supplemental Environmental Project for Makauwahi Cave Reserve as part of the resolution of the FOM filed Clean Water Act case.

The $125,000 will pay for streambank restoration along the Waiopili Stream.

“Rather than spend money in a legal battle, we wanted to directly support the community and address the existing contamination in the area being caused by nearby injection wells, cesspools and invasive species,” HDF said.

Friends of Maha’ulepu opposes the industrial dairy, which the organization says threatens the health of the surrounding environment and water quality. It has said the dairy doesn’t belong in the valley, just a few miles from a resort and homes.

Members of Friends of Maha’ulepu are hailing the decree as a victory, and are hoping it will foster a decision to move the project elsewhere.

“The health of Maha’ulepu, its rich heritage, county drinking water wells, our ocean and beaches should never be compromised by massive amounts of untreated animal waste,” Hammerquist said.

But HDF said Friends is “falsely claiming victory in this matter.”

The consent decree is not final, said HDF.

“It is a proposed consent decree that was lodged with Judge Kobayashi,” the HDF release said. “It will now be submitted to the Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency where the document will go through a mandatory 45-day review period. Following that, it could be approved as final by Judge Kobayashi.

Once approved, the consent decree will only be in effect until HDF obtains an NPDES stormwater construction permit, HDF said.

HDF said it plans to complete an environmental impact statement.

“We remain committed to continuing our work with regulators and the community to bring the state’s first pasture-based dairy to fruition,” the release said.

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