‘Extensive’ hydropower outreach meetings planned

LIHU‘E — Free Flow Power is preparing for its first round of community outreach meetings on its proposed hydroelectric projects for Garden Isle waterways on behalf of Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative.

“Our goal is to be able to work our way around the island and get as many people as possible,” FFP Project Development VP Jason Hines told KIUC’s Board of Directors on Tuesday.

The first meetings will be with select community groups, followed by “extensive” community outreach meetings for the public, he said. The dates of the meeting are yet to be determined.

“In our opinion, things are moving according to plan. A lot has been going on over the last two months, really much of it in direct response to the board and staff’s wishes for more expansive outreach,” Hines said.

“We’ve been talking with a lot of agencies, talking with a lot of people on the ground, landowners, and discussing the projects and the sites and learning what we can about their concerns and how to reflect that in the project layout and project design,” he said.

In late 2010 and earlier this year, FFP filed preliminary permit applications with FERC to develop hydropower facilities on six Kaua‘i waterways. To date, FERC has approved four of the six applications: 6.6-megawatt Wailua River Hydroelectric Project (Clean River Power 15); 3.5-MW Hanalei River Hydroelectric Project (Kahawai Power 1); 6.6-MW Makaweli River Hydroelectric Project (Kahawai Power 2); and 2-MW Wailua Reservoir Water Power Project (Kahawai Power 5).

Applications are still pending for the 1.5-MW Kekaha Waimea Water Power Project (Kahawai Power 4) and the 7.7-MW Kitano Water Power Project (Clean River Power 16).

Some of the projects have been changed slightly, Hines said, and some more significantly. He said FFP is learning about opportunities to integrate the projects with agriculture and existing infrastructure.   

“Looks like some of the projects may be a little smaller than originally conceived, and the details of that will be sorted out over the next month or so,” Hines said, adding a goal is to present a first-recommended or first-proposed project layout designs in late October or early November.

“Hopefully, we’ll have the first version of a proposal that KIUC can bring to the public and discuss at that point in time,” he said. “It will be a starting point for an additional round of feedback, shaping the project. That’ll be the first point in which there will be some drawings and a written description responsive to the feedback we get.”

 KIUC Board member Ben Sullivan suggested that a schedule of meetings be presented to the public as soon possible.

“You need to inform the public of the meeting dates and times and provide a description of the meeting and include key issues, so people know what to expect going in,” Sullivan said.

“Primarily, it’s going to be an opportunity for people to ask questions, give responses, comments,” FFP Project Specialist Dawn Huff said.

Sullivan also asked that FFP provide a timeline for the projects over the next two to three years “so people know where they stand.”

“That’s a little difficult to do until we get more clear with the state agencies,” Huff said. “I think we can get to that, but we’re not quite there yet.”

Hines said, “Along the way, we’ll try to lay out what the intended schedule is. As the process unfolds, it becomes more clear.” 

Meanwhile, FFP will be hosting a workshop today in Honolulu with numerous state agencies to discuss federal processes, including those of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and how it will tie into state permitting requirements.

The meeting is “to build some understanding on how theses projects will be permitted and what will be needed to move them forward to construction,” Hines said.

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

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