The draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that Mahaulepu dairy opponents demanded is now complete. But garans, they'll be unhappy with the report, which found that no significant impacts are likely.
The DEIS determined that neighbors are too far away to be impacted by noise and smells, flies can be controlled and dairy operations will “stabilize and protect soils across nearly 500 acres at Mahaulepu, reducing soil erosion and suspended sediment runoff to drainage ways and the nearshore ocean waters. In addition, the pasture based system will improve and revitalize the current soils and farming productivity of the land.”
Some short-term construction impacts, such as dust, erosion and traffic, are initially expected, the report states. However, "over the long term, impacts associated with the implementation of Hawai‘i Dairy Farms are anticipated to be modest and consistent with the agricultural setting in which the farm is located.”
Hawaii Dairy Farms — a $17.5 million pilot project financed by billionaire Pierre Omidyar — plans to employ a pasture-based rotational grazing method on former sugar cane land on Kauai's southside. Though an EIS wasn't required, HDF agreed to conduct the assessment to placate foes.
Opponents, which include owners of the Grand Hyatt, have filed suit to stop the project. Meanwhile, Friends of Mahaulepu and Surfrider have used The Garden Island, KKCR and social media to unleash a barrage of accusations about water pollution, noxious odors, fly hell, reduced residential property values and other harms, while deriding the dairy as “industrial ag” and inaccurately likening it to a confined animal feeding operation.
The DEIS, conducted by Group 70, analyzed the impacts from 699 mature milking cows, as well as a contemplated herd size of up to 2,000 cows. Its findings neatly deconstruct the various claims leveled by opponents:
With the dairy in operation, during periodic seasonal storm water runoff events (about 10 times/yr) there may be additional nutrients introduced to the agricultural ditches, which ultimately drain to the nearshore ocean water. However, it is estimated that just 2 percent of the nitrogen and 1 percent of the phosphorus produced have the potential to runoff the farm — levels that will not adversely affect ocean water quality or the marine environment.
HDF will conduct ongoing monitoring of surface and coastal waters to aid in farm management.
Nutrient loss will be minimized through vigorous pasture grass cover and thatch, and 35 ft wide vegetation buffers maintained along the agricultural ditches. Irrigation water will not be applied within 50 ft of the agricultural ditches. The vegetated buffers will also deter the movement of manure particles carried in runoff during peak storm events.
There is also the potential for vector insects such as flies to become established at the dairy farm. These will be controlled by Integrated Pest Management measures, as well as washing down the milking parlor and holding pens to minimize waste accumulation and fly populations and introducing dung beetles to the pasture paddocks to substantially hasten the breakdown of manure.
Air quality in the immediate vicinity of the dairy farm (within 1,700 feet) may, in the worst-case conditions, be affected with odors from the effluent pond and manure in the pasture paddocks. The odor extends to approximately 2,780-feet (about half a mile) for the 2,000-cow operation. However, the nearest homes, recreational areas and commercial centers are more than a mile away.
The DEIS identified the following beneficial impacts:
Increased local milk production, farm jobs, support for Kauai agriculture, youth education, “significant opportunities for local ranchers” and “increased soil conservation. Pasture creation and management will stabilize and protect soils across nearly 500 acres, reducing soil erosion and suspended sediment runoff to drainage ways and the nearshore ocean waters.
The report provided additional details about the project:
The rotational- grazing dairy system utilizes 100 of the manure produced by the cows to fertilize pastures, where the cows will spend 22 hours each day. Pasture grass on about will comprise 70 to 80 percent of the animals' diet.
Liquid effluent will be mixed with non-potable water from the Waita Reservoir, and applied to pastures through a GPS- controlled pivot irrigation system. Slurry created by mixing the solids with non-potable water will be applied through a mobile hard-hose reel dispensed through a gun nozzle referred to as a gun irrigation system.
HDF will work with two nearby ranches, Makoa and Omao, to tend dry cows during their annual rest period, raise female calves until they can be returned to the dairy and rear male calves as beef cattle.
The DEIS also noted that HDF had considered other sites on Grove Farm land, including 972 acres at Puhi, but determined they were less suitable and likely to result in greater environmental impacts.
Issues that remain unresolved include:
The final scaling of the milking cow herd size will ultimately be determined based on the results of pasture grass development at the site, and dairy cow milk production levels. HDF has committed to no more than 699 milking cows.
It is anticipated that the HDF dairy herd can be increased well beyond 1,000 to 1,500 milking cows and be sustainable from an operational and environmental perspective. Expansion beyond the 699 milking cows level will require issuance of a CAFO/NPDES permit by the State Dept of Health.
The scope of milk processing operations has yet to be resolved. The location for the milk processing activity has not been finalized. The opportunity to undertake value-added processing steps in milk products processing could also be conducted on-island. Completion of milk products processing on-island would create additional employment and government revenues for Kaua‘i, increase the availability of local milk products, and further bolster the local agricultural economy.
If milk products processing is not undertaken on Kaua‘i, the pasteurized milk would be shipped in bulk to one of the existing processing facilities on O‘ahu or Hawai‘i Island for further process steps, packaging and marketing.
Absence any indication of real harm, my guess is the anti-ag activists will now claim the draft EIS is biased, and/or that crooked state and county agencies are green-lighting the project. Because doncha know the anti-ag folks are never, ever wrong?
Still, it's rather ironic that the past two weeks have seen the release of two expensive documents that were produced at the behest of ag opponents in an attempt to assess harms that activists have asserted as unequivocal truths. Yet neither the Joint Fact Finding report on Kauai agricultural pesticides nor the dairy EIS found any evidence to bolster the wild claims.
So can we please stop treating these people as legitimate critics and quit jumping through their hoops?