Thursday, October 11, 2012

Musings: Drill, Baby, Drill

It was such a joy to wake in the night to the sound of rain thrumming on the leaves, dripping from the leaves, to be sprinkled upon while walking with the dogs on wet soil and streets. Water truly is the most precious resource.

And the Kauai Department of Water (DOW) is looking to develop more of it by drilling a horizontal shaft into the mountains at Kahili, southwest of Lihue.

Though the project, if successful, would double the water capacity in the Kapaa-Lihue area, that's not the goal, said Jan TenBruggencate, KIUC board member/blogger/journalist/public relations consultant, who is doing community outreach for the Limtiaco Co., which has been contracted by Oceanit, the company hired to do the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Instead, the project is intended to eliminate some $2 million in annual pumping costs for the Lihue-Kapaa area by using the mountain as “a storage tank” for a gravity-fed water source. It's being billed as an “energy conservation” project because DOW currently is using electricity generated by fossil fuel to run its pumps.

It's estimated that drilling will cost some $40-$45 million, while the pipeline will be another $30 million. The EIS is $2 million. [Jan has corrected the project cost to $30-$35 million, including the EIS.]

Jan, who recently stopped by my house to check out my top bar hive — he's also a beekeeper — and give me the low down on the project, said Oceanit will also conduct feasibility studies on other alternatives, such as using small hydro plants or solar panels to run the pumps. Those options could be implemented if the EIS shows the drilling isn't feasible.

I asked why DOW wasn't starting with those options, if the goal was truly to eliminate pumping costs rather than develop additional capacity. It seemed to me they would be less risky, and most likely a lot cheaper, while meeting the objective of weaning the utility off fossil fuel.

Jan gave several reasons why DOW wants to drill. It's uncertain whether hydro and solar would be able to generate sufficient electricity to power the pumps, he said, and solar has a limited lifespan, so the panels would have to be replaced. DOW is also wanting to move away vertical wells because “they're more susceptible to chemical contamination from agriculture and drinking water regulations are going to get tougher.” It could cost DOW some $6 million to clean up the Lihue-Kapaa wells to meet these stricter standards.

As for why the DOW is going for a system that could generate some 8 million gallons per day of water, well, if you're going to spend all that money, you might as well make it big “so the system will still be there for the grandchildren,” Jan said. “The thought is it would make us a more resilient community because we could supply the entire Lihue-Kapaa region with sources that don't have an energy component.”

The current Lihue-Kapaa system has a capacity of 4 mgd. DOW plans to take the vertical wells out of production once the horizontal well comes on line, although they feasibly still could be used, allowing for a tripling of capacity.

Though I wasn't the only person to raise the specter that all this additional capacity might generate additional development, Jan downplayed that concern, saying both water and power use on the island have been dropping in recent years.

He also noted that using water capacity to limit growth only “hurts the little guys,” because big companies like A&B can drill their own well, as they're doing at Kukuiula.

Still, I think it's important to note that the project is planned for land owned by Grove Farm, which has all that undeveloped acreage out there that would make for some fabulous gentleman's estates. But water has always been the limiting factor, and GF had to develop an extremely expensive surface water system to supply its projects to date.

Surely they're going to want something, I said to Jan, and then we argued a little bit about whether GF could legally claim a share of the water in exchange for allowing the project on its land.

We also talked about who would be making the decisions about how that additional capacity is used. Ultimately, authority lies with the Board of Water Supply. It is comprised of seven members. Three are ex-officio voting members: the county engineer, the planning director and the state highways engineer. The other four are appointed by the mayor and approved by the County Council. Currently, they are farmer Roy Oyama, rancher, developer and former Councilman Daryl Kaneshiro (who is chair), banker Clyde Nakaya and electrician Randall Nishimura.

Sounds like kind of a pro-growth line-up. And where are the women, the environmentalists and the Hawaiians? I asked Jan, though that's a question that would be better posed to Mayor Bernard Carvalho, since he does the appointing.

Jan says the horizontal well was first proposed as part of the 2020 water plan, but a 2001 study found it couldn't be done effectively. Since then, new oil drilling technology has been developed that could now make such a project feasible. The plan is to drill into the mountain for two miles, or until they hit a capacity of 8 mgd.

If it's found that any streams are being dewatered as a result of collecting that water, the state Commission on Water Resource Management could order a reduction in the flow, Jan said. But he doesn't think that such is dewatering is likely, because it's estimated the current sustainable capacity of Kauai's water resources is 120-130 mgd.

Though I recall DOW Director David Craddick, previously talking about doing this horizontal drilling into the “blue hole” region, Jan said DOW is instead looking at the site in the Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve because there are already two hydro plants, and roads and ditches are in place. 

Anyway, if you want to ask questions or weigh in, DOW will be holding an informational meeting from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17 at King Kaumualii School in Hanamaulu. Child care will be offered by Kamaaina Kids.


Anonymous said...

Grove Farm Land.....?

Something smells fishy.

More development for the rich and famous...or benefit the community?
How much will our water rates go up to pay for this? Is Grove Farm investing any money into this project? Water rights?

Sorry, but I do not trust Grove Farm and have little faith in the people making the decisions.

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great idea. Why the knee jerk opposition?

Anonymous said...

Not knee jerk but based on past and current practices of GF. I was shocked to see prime ag land in Kipu filled w/ gmo corn fields not to mention the pristine Maha'ulepu coastline backed up against the same. All that chemical laden soil draining into the stream that enters the ocean. No wonder GF wanted to fence off Kipu Falls. Keep all the people away from what's going on back there. Sorry, can't trust them. With a little tyrant like Tressler as the face of GF whadda yah expect?

Anonymous said...

Drill 2 miles into the mountain? A project with so much potential pressure is a threat to all who live downstream.

Anonymous said...

"A project with so much potential pressure is a threat to all who live downstream."

Um, sure. You sound like you really know what you're talking about.

Anonymous said...

Water security is vital to us in Kauai because with no electricity, we would have no water. Kauai only has 30-day supply of diesel fuel,any disruption of fuel delivery to the island becomes a matter of life or death. War in the middle east seems to always be a threat so the planned "gravity flow project" seems to be the best guarantee for our survival.

It is common knowledge that humans can survive only three days without water. We should support DOW's efforts.

Anonymous said...

Are we going to be watering more gmos?
Also, i would rather have gentlmen's estates than more gmos.

Anonymous said...

How about real ag that actually feeds the people of Kaua'i and the rest of the state? Screw gmo corn and/or fake farms. As for water, what about water catchment systems? They exist all over Hawaii Island and up in Kokee.

Anonymous said...

The main problem is Kauai is using treated, potable drinking water now for irrigation and ag watering. If we re-used our grey water and used gravity flowing surface water for irrigation (as was done historically until recently), we would have plenty drinking water. Pumping ground water with fossil fuels, then treating and chlorinating water for drinking, then watering the dirt with this hi $$ water is CRAZY and backwards thinking,.

Anonymous said...

Joan, you got it right:..."Though I wasn't the only person to raise the specter that all this additional capacity might generate additional development, Jan downplayed that concern, saying both water and power use on the island have been dropping in recent years."

I wouldnʻt listen to much Jan says. Heʻs lost any credibility and will basically say what heʻs told. Itʻs a big joke now on the community. Could you honestly, in all sanity, trust a word he says after what we know now about how KIUC will lie?

Also, isnʻt Oceanit the same firm that planned to pump CO2 into the ocean afew years back?

Grove Farm is not entitled to use that water and we learned that when one of their workers testified at a Kuaui springs hearing. He said GF was selling them the water and they knew they werenʻt authorized to do that.

This crap is so far out of control.

Anonymous said...

TO 12:19 PM:

Stifle it already. Weʻve got tons of water unless we get an invasion of new development for military and the likes.

Donʻt forget Alan Smith is always down there at the legislature scurrying around in Kouchiʻs office like a large disgusting rat.

Anonymous said...

TO 2:11 PM:

You f,g idiot.
Iʻd rather have none of you here rather than any of the 2 non-choices your dull brain has to decide between.

Anonymous said...

Oceanit never planned to pump CO2 into the ocean.

Awhile ago, HECO investigated the idea but it was ruled out and Oceanit was never involved.