KIUC clarifies its position

LIHU‘E — Members of Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative on Tuesday said they wish to clarify an important issue related to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s hydroelectic preliminary permitting process.

“There is nothing KIUC is doing that violates state policy on its approach to FERC,” said Jan TenBruggencate, a member of KIUC’s Board of Directors. “Clearly the state doesn’t want utilities in the state of Hawai‘i to use the FERC process to license hydro plants. Clearly we know that, and clearly we are not licensing any hydro plants.”

Under an agreement with hydroelectric developer Free Flow Power, KIUC is exploring the feasibility of hydropower development for six Kaua‘i waterways using the FERC preliminary permitting process, which requires environmental impact studies and stakeholder input.

Preliminary permits are placeholders and are not licenses to build. KIUC has not applied for project licensing through FERC. Whether the board will choose to use the FERC licensing process for hydro construction and development is a decision the board must make at some point in the future, TenBruggencate said.

He added that it is his understanding that the state does not oppose the use of preliminary permits to scope projects. It opposes the licensing, something for which KIUC has not applied.

Central to the discussion about the state’s position on hydroelectric development has been Bill Tam, who was recently appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to the position of deputy director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Tam is a Honolulu lawyer who specializes in water, natural resources and land use law. According to reports, he helped to pen the state’s water code.

The Garden Island has thus far been unable to reach Tam for comment about the state’s position on FERC-related matters.

• Vanessa Van Voorhis, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or by emailing vvanvoorhis@thegardenisland.com.

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