LIHUE — A community group opposing the proposed south side dairy says it has raised enough money to hire experts to assess the environmental impacts the project could have on the area.
Friends of Mahaulepu has raised more than $200,000, thanks to a matching contribution from one of its members.
“The more information the community is getting on how devastating the dairy will be on our community, the more money they contributed because they want it to stop,” said Jay Kechloian, FOM member and a retired builder and developer from Seattle who offered to match donations up to $100,000 to fight the proposal. “Friends of Mahaulepu will take every legal action, every legal step, that is available to us in the law to stop this dairy from coming in.”
The group reached their goal late last week. They had originally set a goal of May 15 to have the funds secured.
“I think the community has spoken loudly that they are not in support of having it at Mahaulepu,” FOM member Bridget Hammerquist said about financial pledge, with donations still coming in.
Friends of Mahaulepu, an opponent of Hawaii Dairy Farms’ proposed $17.5 million, 578-acre dairy in Mahaulepu Valley, says it expects to spend $250,000 through the entire Environmental Impact Statement process.
In November, HDF, a company backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Ulupono Initiative, agreed to conduct a voluntarily EIS in light of public concern surrounding the project.
FOH plans to use the money to hire experts to study and weigh in on the EIS once it’s opened for public comment.
Concerns range from the potential odor and impacts to drinking water to biting flies, air and water quality, and what the dairy could mean for property values in and around Poipu and Koloa. It could be built out to house 2,000 dairy cows.
HDF spokeswoman Amy Hennessey said consultants are conducting technical studies that will comprise the Draft EIS and the draft document should be available to share sometime this summer.
When it is, people will have 45 days to submit testimony on the plan. Group 70 International, Inc., the same Honolulu-based planning and engineering firm that developed the dairy plan, is conducting the voluntary EIS for the project.
“We welcome the community’s participation in this process to create an environmentally and financially sustainable pasture-based dairy that will provide fresh local milk for Hawaii’s families and bolster our island community’s food security,” Hennessey wrote in an email.
Hammerquist said it’s important to be able to hire their own experts to vet the project and property.
One major issue, opponents say, is the volume of manure the cows will produce.
Regardless of the findings, FOH will include it in the testimony, even if it says the area could handle the proposed plan with minimal risks.
Hammerquist added that CH2M HILL studied the land last year and said HDF needs to do more to ensure the project fits.
“The Plan contains incomplete, inconsistent and contradictory information, and fails to address significant issues that have a direct impact on the environment of the Mahaulepu area, including wells, ground water and nearby Class 1 waters,” an attorney’s letter on CH2M HILL Mark Madison’s findings reads.
Hennessey said that study wasn’t requested by HDF, and hasn’t been presented its findings.
If the public wishes to submit it as testimony, it can.
“If they would like to present it as part of their findings, they’re welcome to do so,” she said.
FOH filed an intent to sue the project on grounds that HDF didn’t have the general construction stormwater permit while grading and grubbing on the project site. The deadline to secure the permits is May 15 lest the suit get filed.
“Hawaii Dairy Farms has and will continue to seek all required permits for agricultural operations, and in fact, we are going beyond that by preparing the voluntary Environmental Impact Statement,” Hennessey said.