Friday, April 1, 2011

Musings: Nary a Clue

Rain, always a welcome visitor, came in the night and lingered, its darkness delaying the dawn. Trees shook themselves like dogs, creating secondary showers as Koko and Pa`ele — yes, he’s back for a bit — and I went walking this morning through a green landscape that was muted by mist and downpours in the distance. Gray ghosts drifted through the gap in the Giant, Waialeale temporarily ceased to exist and small rivers ran alongside the road. The sun, well hidden, offered nary a clue that it had risen.

Members of the East Kauai Water Uses Cooperative, whose system includes the Wailua reservoir, had nary a clue that KIUC was seeking approval to study the feasibility of a 6.6 megawatt hydro project on its system until they read about it in yesterday’s paper. By then, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had approved the utility’s application for a preliminary permit.

As the paper reported:

Filed by energy developer Free Flow Power on behalf of KIUC, the Wailua River Hydroelectric Project permit calls for the construction of a 23-foot-high, 508-foot-long concrete diversion structure 1,000 feet upstream of Wailua River and a 35-acre reservoir, according to the FERC application.

It stands to reason that such an extensive diversion would certainly impact, and most definitely involve, the water cooperative, which provides agricultural water to a number of farmers. So it seems that KIUC would have consulted extensively with the water cooperative — or at the bare minimum, given them a heads up — before filing such an application. But it did not.

As one observer noted bitterly: “They did it real haole style.”

In first announcing its plans to pursue hydro projects, KIUC promised that it would conduct the process in a transparent manner, with plenty of public involvement. To my knowledge, just one briefing has been held, and that was for the Kauai Economic Development Board — hardly the general public. I was even told that a session was being considered specifically for bloggers so we could be fully informed of the utility’s plans and have a chance to ask questions. But thus far, I’ve heard nothing.

Meanwhile, KIUC has filed six such applications within the last five months, and three have been approved — without any public involvement. According to The Garden Island’s account of a presentation that KIUC CEO, David Bissell made to the Lihue Business Association (again, hardly an open meeting with the general public):

Hiring Free Flow to quickly file preliminary permit applications along the island’s rivers and ditches is more about securing the resources for future development rather than allowing private energy developers access, Bissell said, comparing it to staking claims during a gold rush.

What right does KIUC have to “stake claims” to water, which in Hawaii is a public resource – especially without consulting the public that owns it and the farmers who are now using it?

Then Bissell discloses that this is not the end of it:

“There are three or four more permits that are expected to come into the fray,” Bissell said. “We have to have a lot in the works because some may not go through.”

So exactly when is KIUC planning to present its members - and the public — with a full account of its plans for our rivers? A cooperative should be consulting with its members every step of the way — and not through canned press releases, but dialogue in an open forum.

But at least, according to Bissell, the utility is not planning to dam the Wailua River for hydro — a controversial project that stood a snowball’s chance in hell of winning approval. A number of people thought the utility had just thrown that one out there so that it could withdraw it, thus pacifying the opposition.

As one observer noted: “It’s like asking someone, do you want me to kill you or just beat the hell out of you? Of course you’re going to choose the beating.”


Anonymous said...

Aloha Joan,
KIUC Director Carol Bain is scheduling a informational meeting w/KIUC staff for KCC's Earthday Celebration. David Bissel is an invited guest. This may be a good time to question our utility cooperative about it's direction and management. The board and staff need guidance and direction from it's members. Aside from voting(some of us) and paying our bill(all of us) we really don't involve ourselves w/our cooperative's business. Maybe if this would change, we might see better results.
Mahalo again for your work and joining us on yesterday's show. Look forward to having you back on whenever your schedule allows.
Have a great day!,.....jt

Anonymous said...

ps will get you more KCC EarthDay detail/info to you as it develops : )

Anonymous said...

Mahalo Joan for reporting on this issue. We need some light to shine on this issue. It affects us all and such a decision should not be made by a few. Aloha.

Anonymous said...

joan, how many more opportunites, in this very public process of obtaining a FERC will there be? 3 or 10?

Anonymous said...


Exactly where and when? How will this be publicized?

Maybe I am wrong, but......
It seems to me they make up their minds then ask for guidance to look good.

Clean energy from a water resource sounds like a great idea, but if you read about the US Army Corps of Engineers and what they did to the environment, especially the salmon runs in California without thinking did provide power to people living far away from the areas (the big cities) but negatively impacted the local area by the damns.

We need not "do power" if we cannot support agriculture and not impact the environment the same time.

Seems like people doing these projects really do not listen to the people. That's my experience of living here over 26 years. It's just part of the game.

Do we need to riot or have violent demonstrations to be heard?

Dr Shibai

Unknown said...

> We need not "do power" if we cannot support agriculture and not impact the environment the same time.

The environmental concerns are certainly valid, but it is worth noting that people involved in agriculture are often pushing dam construction on the mainland. For example, the Hoover dam was built more for taming the Colorado river and irrigation than for electric power. Recent drought concerns would evaporate if there were (safe) reservoirs around.

Anonymous said...

Sun first, it has far less impact.
There is nothing cooperative about KIUC What woulda shouda happenened if it was a coop of us people is they would have asked about our choices, suggestions before, not after. We should sell the coop to a more friendly envirornmentally oriented business

Anonymous said...

Bissell is such a turd. I hear he made some of these applications without even notifying the board beforehand. Sound like Alton Miyamoto Jr -- high handed, arrogant opportunistic )(&&^^^. I give him 3-5 years before they have to fire him.

Story is that KIUC is about to be sued for only having one approved PV vendor -- a KIUC employee's firm. How cozy. Wonder how much that will cost all of us?

Anonymous said...

Sun has less impact but it only works 5-6 hrs a day unless you spend a ton on storage via batteries or hot salts. At 3X the cost it's impact is on everyone's pocketbook.

We need a mix of wind, solar, water and biomass.

Anonymous said...

Solar does work, even in wet Wainiha Valley, where there are homes and families who do in fact only have solar. Even in the wet winter like this one, you would be amazed how efficient solar is, and not too many batteries are needed either. But it doesn't generate money, eh?
What i don't hear in the conversation is conserve, reduce your use

Anonymous said...

"Exactly where and when? How will this be publicized?"

each permit required has different public input processes - the main one of is course the EA/EIS informaiton always available here:

for the NPDES permit -

these types of federal permits take a long time and have multiple opportunities for public input.

But for all of those who say they care and actually don't wont spend a minute trying to find out how to participate...

Anonymous said...

7:20 == Where on those sites is info about KIUC projects? I looked and didn't see anything.

Andy said...

I have opposed the Wailua hydro since it was first proposed, over 6 years ago. This island needs hydro, but these oustide companies are looking in all the wrong places--and will do a lot of new damage if we let them.

I don't know why Alexander reservoir is not being considered: it is large and has the benefit of being high up--and already built. The solution is to build some conduit to some lower reservoirs, and use the system to store energy from the wind and sun.

This is what they do in the Canary Island of Hiero: use wind and solar to pump water uphill when possible, and let it flow back down through the generators when needed. Please, someone build that here.

Anonymous said...

April 2, 2011 9:59 PM

no need on the west side - reservoir already up there (trout fishing pond) and already built irrigation ditches, pipe it to hydro, collect energy make secondary reservoir, down another irrigation ditch, collect more energy at the bottom. The ditch system is already in place and can be used for both agricultural irrigation and enegy production for those farms on the west side.

Anonymous said...

I looked and didn't see anything.

April 2, 2011 8:24 AM

you would actually have to know what year the eis or ea was produced, I see research is not your strong point so perhaps reading it would not mean too much to you anyway.

Anonymous said...

I thought that the water used to generate electricity is available for farming or goes back into the stream or river once it passes through the turbines and that the big concern was its impact on fish, opai, etc.

Anonymous said...

Six years ago "Andy?" hahahaha. 35 years ago when they were pushing it- again- I heard they had done so during the depression era works projects.

Some battle have to be fought over and over and over and over and.....

Anonymous said...

It's already been done. There is a fully operating hydro system in place. I've seen it and it is impressive, and simple. It's been there for many years and supplies electricity to the agricultural projects on the west side as it did for the sugar plantations before. It has it's own distribution infrastructure and costs the farmers 1/2 what KIUC would charge. There is a group on the westside actively yet quietly working hard to expand this production and supply a lot of cheap power to the west side and beyond. Uphill battle all the way. Now KIUC steps up with some mainland group trying to step in, and with exclusionary rights permits take over, and cut out the local efforts and all others. Soon PMRF will be totally self sufficient thru solar and will no longer need/purchase KIUC's product which will be a big impact on the coop. If they develop hydro and or other forms of alternative energy it will never result in lower consumer prices. That boondoggle coop is a money pit, was before it went coop as Citizens Utilities out of Connecticut and still is. I have known people who worked there that have stories as to how it was purposely run inefficiently with lax maintenance and broken generating equipment so as to justify higher product cost and other corporate book fixing.
Hydro is a very viable and if done right, clean, renewable source of much cheaper electricity. There is so much water that comes down out of the mountains here. Unbelievable amounts even during dryer years. What used to fill up the Mana plain creating a huge marsh area with inland water ways where one could take canoes from Poli Hale to Waimea was captured and diverted thru ditches and tunnels and natural streams to form a truly impressive irrigation system that must be and is still maintained if only for flood control, but also for current ag use. These systems were developed all over this island and so were a number of hydro projects with a few still in operation. It is stupid not to use this simple clean gift. It doesn't take that much water redirected to form a jet like steam and turn a turbine. With modern methods and effort any and all pollution could be contained and mitigated.
All this talk about how water to the Hawaiians was sacred and the giver of life etc etc is all well and good. But from what I've learned and observed over the years, if you were take and transport ancient Hawaiians into the 21rst century world, with their brutal practicality and efficiency an intelligence they would be all over this. (just keep em away from the nuclear stuff LOL)