LIHUE — The public has an extra 30 days to comment on Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s application for a long-term water lease for the Waiahi hydropower plants, thanks to some technical difficulties.
Specifically, the entity ran into problems transmitting the draft environmental assessment after publishing with the state Office of Environmental Quality Control on Oct. 8.
“The document is being re-published due to a procedural issue in transmitting the document to various agencies and stakeholders,” KIUC said in a statement about the draft EA. “All previously submitted comments are still valid.”
Along with republishing the draft EA, the public comment period has been extended. Now, the public has until Dec. 23 to comment on the document.
The draft EA is an important part in the process of securing the long-term water lease, which would allow them to continue using water from diversions in the North Fork Wailua and Waikoko Streams for production in the Waiahi hydropower plants.
KIUC has been using these diversions since 2002 via a revocable permit that’s issued annually by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources. In 2004, the cooperative applied for a long-term lease, but has been working with revocable permits since that time.
KIUC and proponents of the use of these diversions point out the advantage of using hydropower versus diesel or other power sources for electricity.
The Upper and Lower Waiahi plants have been in operation for nearly 100 years, and power from these hydro facilities allows the utility to avoid the burning of 675,000 gallons of diesel a year.
Opponents of the project say that the two diversions, known collectively as the “Blue Hole diversions,” drastically lower the stream flow and negatively impact the environment, cultural practices and agriculture in the area.
The EA document includes stream, flora and fauna and socio-economic studies, and a cultural impact assessment.
It can be accessed on the OEQC website: health.hawaii.gov/oeqc/.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or email@example.com.