Years later, Anahola nonprofit reborn

ANAHOLA —Approximately four years after falling by the wayside, the Anahola Homesteaders Council is back, and has brought along its old mission statement, according to co-founder James Torio.

That is “to seek responsible avenues to improve the lifestyle of native Hawaiians through ‘pono’ community dialog and planning that will lessen the burdens of government.”

The nonprofit — recognized for outstanding leadership by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 — has cleared all the legal requirements necessary to return to active participation in the Anahola community, Torio said.

“Now we’re back in the game,” he said.

For the past few months, Torio and others affiliated with AHC were among the vocal community members opposed to Green Energy Team, LLC’s proposal to lease 2,134 acres of Hawaiian homelands in Anahola.

On June 28, recognizing the overwhelming opposition, the Hawaiian Homes Commission voted 5-3 to reject the project, despite the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ recommendation for approval.

The 20-year lease would have allowed Green Energy to clear existing Albizia trees from the land and establish a eucalyptus tree plantation to fuel its $90 million biomass-to-energy facility near Koloa.

Pursuant to HHC’s decision last month, AHC will hold its second potluck-style community meeting from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Anahola Clubhouse.

Among other topics, the discussion will include Green Energy’s rejected lease and Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s 60-acre solar facility planned on Hawaiian homelands in Anahola.

“The big question that will come up at the meeting is, ‘Where are we (the community members) with the solar project in Anahola? … Where are the benefits packages?’” Torio said.

In May, an assessment found KIUC’s proposal poses no adverse environmental or cultural impacts. At the time, spokesman Jim Kelly told The Garden Island the assessment was one of the few state and federal hurdles left before construction begins on the $55 million project.

Construction could begin by the end of the year.

From 1994 to 2007, AHC was the organization behind Project Faith, a $16 million development planned on a 20-acre parcel of the land where KIUC’s solar farm is slated to be built.

Project Faith would have included a cultural center, kindergarten through 12th grade charter school, elderly care, gas station, Native People’s Marketplace, pharmacy and restaurant.

In 2007, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands revoked AHC property lease, citing the nonprofit had not met its agreed-upon milestones, according to a previous article published in The Garden Island.

“When they took the land back, it was really unfortunate, because we were the only group in Anahola that was really working on a community development plan,” Torio said.

In 2008, AHC was one of 12 organizations recognized by the EPA as part of the agency’s first annual Environmental Justice Achievement Awards.

Those planning to attend Friday’s meeting are encouraged to bring along a food dish to share. For more information about the dinner and general meeting, contact Torio at 651-4581 or Mokihana Kauvaka at 652-4560.

The Anahola Clubhouse is located at 3900 Kawelo St.

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