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DLNR supports hydro, remains leery of FERC

LIHU‘E — The state Department of Land and Natural Resources issued a statement Tuesday in support of hydroelectricity and Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative’s exploration of hydro power development.

“The state supports renewable and hydroelectric energy projects and encourages the Kaua‘i community to move forward in studying the island’s hydroelectric potential,” said Deborah Ward, information specialist at DLNR, in an email correspondence.

“The state has concerns that utilizing a federal ‘licensing’ process, under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, could interfere with the state’s role in governing water use. State officials have discussed these concerns with (KIUC) and acknowledge that the utility to date has made no commitment to seek a federal license,” Ward said.

In a subsequent press release issued by KIUC on Wednesday, spokeswoman Anne Barnes said the co-op has discussed these concerns with state officials and is committed to working with state agencies to determine the best process to ensure that state resources are protected.

“KIUC’s use of FERC preliminary permits is designed to protect KIUC’s first right to develop projects, which are deemed feasible after completion of the extensive, mandatory community outreach and cultural, environmental and agricultural impact studies,” Barnes said.

In the same press release, KIUC CEO David Bissell said DLNR’s statement is consistent with the co-op’s commitment to responsible hydro power development.

“The FERC licensing process is engaged only at the stage when a hydro project is considered feasible enough to pursue its development,” Bissell said. “The decision whether or not to use the FERC licensing process will not be made for a year or more.”

He said KIUC remains committed to engaging state agencies, officials, the co-op’s members and community “in a dialogue to define the optimal process for responsible hydroelectric power development.”

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

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