Ag land use debated by GPU advisory committee

LIHU’E — Is there a need to preserve Kaua’i’s most fertile agricultural lands

if there won’t be farmers to farm them?

Kilauea farmer and developer Mike

Dyer doesn’t see large-scale, plantation-style agriculture “visible on the

horizon” for the island, so therefore sees little need to place restrictions on

non-agricultural development on those lands.

Dyer spoke at a meeting

Wednesday of a rural lands subcommittee of the Citizens Advisory Committee

working on the Kaua’i General Plan Discussion Draft.

Former Kaua’i Planning

Director Tom Shigemoto supported General Plan provisions designed to preserve

important agricultural lands for agricultural purposes.

How to achieve that

end is the problem, he said.

The problem, said GPU consultant Robin Foster,

is getting farmers on the land.

“You won’t, anymore,” said Avery Youn,

another former planning director.

“You won’t put farmers on the land by

keeping the barbarians off,” said Bill Spitz, the county Office of Economic

Development’s agricultural coordinator, quoting another source.

The

existing General Plan, as well as the state Constitution, call for agricultural

land designations to conserve land and water resources in order to insure an

excellent resource base for existing and potential agricultural uses, and

assure a sufficient supply of land available for sale or lease at a cost that

is economically feasible for agricultural enterprise.

But some CAC members

questioned whether there are enough farmers today and projected for the future

to justify setting aside prime agricultural lands for agriculture.

Of

17,000 customers the county Department of Water serves, just 400 get

agricultural rates which are substantially lower than domestic rates.

Amy

Awtry said there are farmers aching to get on land and work it, but with little

success so far.

Discouraging new agricultural communities (areas with both

residences and agricultural usage) that tend to stretch and drive up the cost

of providing county services is a new policy proposed for inclusion in the

General Plan.

Ed Tschupp, deputy manager of the county Department of Water,

used Kilauea and Lihu’e as service area examples to show how agricultural usage

increases costs and brings in less revenue for the department.

There are

983 customers in the Kilauea area, and the 70 agricultural users take one third

of the water, Tschupp said. Expenses are 10 percent higher in spread-out

Kilauea than compact Lihu’e, and revenues are lower in Kilauea per 1,000

gallons used than Lihu’e.

Awtry and others said it doesn’t make sense for

farmers to use expensive, potable (drinkable) water for crops, flowers and

other uses.

“We’re using a lot of valuable water for agriculture, and it

doesn’t make sense,” she said.

Don Heacock said the General Plan should

encourage agriculture on lots where non-potable water sources are present, and

a definition should be placed on “sustainable agriculture.”

“Wastewater

isn’t a waste. It’s a resource,” said Heacock, pointing to progressive counties

on the Mainland which have for years had “gray water ordinances,” or

requirements for re-use of water that on Kaua’i flows down a sink drain and

right into a cesspool, septic tank, or to a wastewater treatment plant when

much of it really doesn’t need to be treated and could be used to water lawns

and crops without treatment expenses.

Another meeting of the rural lands

subcommittee has been set for Wednesday., Feb. 23, at 4 p.m. at the Lihu’e

Civic Center.

0 Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.