MAHAULEPU — Several lawmakers are voicing their support for the Hawaii Dairy Farms’ plan to operate a 699-cow dairy in Kauai’s Mahaulepu Valley.
“I enthusiastically support Hawaii Dairy Farms starting its operations to provide locally produced milk for island families,” said Kauai Councilman Derek Kawakami in a letter sent to TGI on Wednesday. “I have found Hawaii Dairy Farms to be an honorable local company that has gone above and beyond requirements to ensure that their operation will protect the environment.”
The letter commends Hawaii Dairy Farms for voluntarily completing and submitting its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) “though it was not mandated.”
The facts included in the EIS point to a “sound project,” the letter states.
“We have so much more work to do to bolster our agriculture industry, from improving infrastructure to constructing facilities, assisting more products to the marketplace, and so on,” Kawakami wrote. “This is why I believe it is prudent that Hawaii Dairy Farms proceed with its operations at this time.”
Rep. Dee Morikawa also told TGI Wednesday that she supports the dairy, though the location has her “a little concerned.”
“If Ulupono (proposers of the dairy) has done their due diligence and the Department of Health approves it, I’m OK with it,” Morikawa said. “This is a new dairy concept that should be given a chance.”
Amy Hennessey, spokeswoman for HDF, said the organization believes the EIS demonstrates that their plan is protective of the environment and responds to community questions and concerns.
“It is heartwarming to see the strong support of community leaders such as Councilmember Derek Kawakami for our pasture-based dairy farm,” Hennessey said. “It is our island leadership’s responsibility to continually seek to understand the potential impact of a farm like ours on the local economy, agriculture sector and environment.”
Hennessey said HDF hopes that Kawakami’s support, as well as that of other lawmakers, reassures the community that Hawaii Dairy Farms’ proposal is sound.
“We will be able to successfully launch a dairy on Kauai that will provide fresh, locally produced milk to Hawaii families for years to come,” Hennessey said.
But there are some in the community who believe Kawakami has spoken too soon.
“Derek Kawakami does not say that he has read the entire FEIS and thoroughly studied it, or read the comments and concerns recently filed by regulatory agencies,” said Eileen Kechloian, who was speaking on behalf of Friends of Mahaulepu, an organization that opposes the dairy.
FOM believes Kawakami doesn’t have all the facts, Kechloian explained. For example, FOM believes the EIS, which Kechloian called vague and contradictory, was triggered, not voluntary.
FOM also alleges Ulupono and Group70 each filed “false oaths with the Department of Health denying construction activities, which a federal court found they had commenced or completed without the required state and federal construction permit,” Kechloian said.
FOM is scheduling a meeting with Kawakami to supply him with the information they believe he is lacking.