GMO bill clears first reading


This online version corrects that Bill 2491 would not stop the commercial production of GMO crops, but rather place a temporary moratorium on the experimental use and commercial production of GMOs until the county has completed an environmental impact statement.

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council unanimously voted to move forward a bill that would allow the county to govern the use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms on the island.

During his closing remarks, Councilman Tim Bynum, who co-introduced Bill 2491 along with Councilman Gary Hooser, described the issue as “serious.”

“We’re talking about people’s lives, people’s livelihoods,” he said. “There are very sincere and passionate people on both sides.”

At 9:30 p.m. Wednesday — after roughly six hours of testimony from dozens of local residents and biotech company employees — the council approved the bill on first reading, sending it to a public hearing July 31.

A location for the hearing is not confirmed. Council Chair Jay Furfaro said he would be looking for a place able to accommodate a larger crowd. About 1,000 attended Wednesday’s meeting but only roughly 100 at a time were allowed in the council chambers.

During his eight years as a state senator (2002-2010), Hooser said he worked on many different and important issues.

“I think at the end of the day this will be the most important one that I’ve worked on, and maybe will work on,” he said. “It has tangible impacts to people’s lives and to our environment.”

The bill calls for Kauai’s largest agricultural corporations — namely DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta, DOW AgroSciences, BASF and Kauai Coffee — to disclose the use of pesticides and the presence of GMO crops. It would also establish pesticide-free buffer zones around public areas and waterways, ban open-air testing of experimental crops and place a temporary moratorium on the commercial production of GMOs, until the county can conduct an environmental impact statement on the industry’s effects on Kauai.

Hooser believes the issue will never be resolved by the state Legislature, which is why he has chosen to fight it at the county level.

Emu underpass planned for Australia’s Pacific Highway

Australian road officials have proposed building emu underpasses beneath the east coast Pacific Highway so that a population of endangered flightless emus can safely cross one of Australia’s busiest and most dangerous roads.

But wildlife experts say the emu, the world’s third largest bird, which can run as fast as 30mph, is unlikely to use the underpasses.

“Emus are big birds with little brains,” said Gary Whale of Birdlife Australia.

The New South Wales state roads authority said it was working on a plan to minimise the impact of a Pacific Highway upgrade on the small emu population on Australia’s east coast.

Between 20 and 40 people have died on the road each year over the last decade, prompting authorities to spend hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading the highway to eliminate accident “black spot”.

But Birdlife Australia said the suggested new route of the highway would bisect emu foraging and breeding areas and endanger the lives of emus in Clarence Valley.

“It could see the extinction of the coastal emu,” said Whale.

Special pathways to “provide safe passage under bridges” were being considered as part of an environmental impact statement, said a spokesperson for the New South Wales Roads and Maritime Service.

“There are also four dedicated underpass structures designed for the emus, three 5.5 metres (18ft) high and the other 4 metres (13ft) high,” said the spokesperson.

Emus can stand up to 2 metres (6.6ft) tall.

Maui residents oppose wind farm access road plans

Some South Maui residents are upset about a developer’s plan to use a resort road through Wai­lea and Makena for construction truck access as it builds a wind farm on 120 acres of Ulu­pala­kua Ranch land.

“It’s going to affect us economically,” said Bud Pikrone, general manager of the Wai­lea Community Association.

Pikrone said developer Auwahi Wind Energy LLC’s activities will create noise in a hotel and residential resort area and cause wear and tear on the roads.

Pikrone said in the last seven years, Wai­lea Ala­nui Road has had three sinkholes, including one that closed off an area for 18 months.

He said various large landowners plan to hold a meeting with Auwahi Wind next month to discuss rerouting the truck traffic farther mauka and closer to Pii­lani Highway.

“We’re hoping we can come up with some resolution,” Pikrone said.

The Maui County Planning Commission held a public hearing Tuesday to review Auwahi Wind’s draft environmental impact statement.

Auwahi Wind needs the commission to accept its environmental impact statement before moving to seek land-use permits.

Wind farm idea draws praise

WAILUKU – Maui planning commissioners Tuesday praised a proposed wind farm as a “wonderful, wonderful project” but raised doubts about getting the massive equipment to the remote location on the southwest flank of Haleakala between two sections of the Auwahi native plant restoration area.

The commission was commenting on a draft environmental impact statement for Sempra Energy’s proposed wind project at Ulupalakua.

Worries about losing the last highway ocean views to what Chairman Jonathan Starr called “pole land” also came up Tuesday. But the wind farm itself was warmly received, with Starr wishing only that it could be bigger than the 21 megawatts proposed.

Pardee Erdman, of Ulupalakua Ranch, which will lease nearly 1,500 acres to Sempra, called the project “a win-win for the ranch.” He said the infrastructure needed to transport heavy turbines and lengthy vanes will “make that land more productive than it is today,” although he added, “We are going to continue raising cattle.”

Maui Electric Co. has contracted to begin purchasing wind electricity from the project a year from now.

But developers still have to obtain many permits before they can proceed, including a special management area permit for parts of the project makai of the road to Kahikinui.

Opposition ‘very troubled’ by ‘big wind’ planned for Lanai

LANAI CITY – Lanai residents turned out Saturday to express strong opposition to bringing “big wind” to their island for the benefit of Oahu consumers.

Testifiers expressed concern about how a proposed wind farm by Castle & Cooke could impact the environment, cultural sites, hunting access and scenic views if it were allowed to proceed on up to 12,800 acres on the northwestern end of the island. While state and federal officials said their purpose was to gather comments on a big-picture plan for an interisland wind system, without focusing on any one specific project, Lanai residents said it was impossible to comment on the impacts of the larger plan without scrutinizing Castle & Cooke’s proposal.

“I’m very troubled by this whole concept,” said Lanai City resident Robin Kaye. “How can you have this cumulative study without looking at the specific impacts?”

The U.S. Department of Energy and the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism hosted the scoping meeting Saturday in the Lanai High and Elementary School cafeteria.

It followed similar meetings on Maui and Molokai earlier in the week.

Turbine Troubles

Wind farm proposal for Lanai, Molokai draws fire

By HARRY EAGAR, Staff Writer
KAHULUI – It was supposed to be a “scoping” meeting to get an idea of what questions need to be answered about the environmental impact of an enormous wind power project, but a good many of the 20 testifiers Wednesday had already decided they had the answer: not here in Maui County for the benefit of Oahu.

Others were less final but quite skeptical, and only a single testifier, Sean Lester, was squarely in favor of the proposed Hawaii Interisland Renewable Energy Program. He called it “visionary.”

The meeting at Pomaikai Elementary School attracted about 50 people, and other meetings either have been held or will soon be held on every island involved: Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Lanai.

A common complaint was that the documents so far released are unspecific. Tony Como of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability said that was the nature of a “programmatic” environmental impact statement. These are “somewhat unique in Hawaii” but familiar in federal projects.

Its purpose, he said, is to cover broadly the implications of the state’s policy of moving to 70 percent renewable energy by 2030. Once the broad picture is available, a second, site-specific environmental impact statement would be initiated.

The deadline for the first part of the process is April 2012, because the project is counting on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds that expire

A&B to study effects of proposed development

WAILUKU – Sixty years ago, when Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. was drawing up the plans for Dream City, its managers foresaw the day when Kahului would extend to what was then called Waiale Pastures.

That time is still years off, but it is close enough that A&B Properties has filed a preparatory notice with the Land Use Commission in anticipation of an environmental impact statement for reclassification of 545 acres on either side of Waiko Road.

“This will be a yearslong process before we are able to do anything physically on the property,” A&B Properties Vice President Grant Chun said Wednesday.

The proposal calls for about 2,550 dwellings, with village mixed-use, commercial and light-industrial areas, a regional park, community center, neighborhood parks, sites for a cultural preserve, a school and related infrastructure. In other words, something similar to Maui Lani, which lies along the northern boundary of the new area.

The project extends in a rough triangle, with a long frontage on Kuihelani Highway. A&B does not own a section north of Waiko Road that is being rapidly developed for light industrial uses. Its plan would include another 16 or 17 acres of light industrial in the area.

Chun describes the area as mostly flat, sandy and never cultivated. Tenants are using much of the land for cattle.

Judge Bars Genetically Modified Sugar Beets

A federal judge issued a ban Friday on any future planting of genetically modified sugar beets, potentially imperiling nearly all of the United States crop.

Judge Jeffrey S. White of United States District Court in San Francisco ruled that the Department of Agriculture had failed to conduct a required environmental impact statement before approving the genetically modified beets. Such beets now account for about 95 percent of the nation’s sugar beet production and nearly half of the sugar produced.

It is unclear how quickly the Department of Agriculture could complete the environmental study and reconsider approval of the genetically engineered beets. The environmental groups that brought the lawsuit argued that genetically modified beets would contaminate unmodified crops grown nearby by organic farmers and others who chose to plant conventional seeds.

Sugar beet growers sold the 2007-8 crop for about $1.335 billion, according to U.S.D.A. data.

Judge Bars Genetically Modified Sugar Beets –

Central Oahu subdivision would create 5,000 homes – Hawaii Business – Starbulletin


Castle & Cooke needs approval to build its $2.2 billion community on agricultural lands

By Allison Schaefers

Castle & Cooke has asked the state Land Use Commission for permission to convert agricultural lands north of Costco in Waipio into its $2.2 billion master-planned communities Koa Ridge Makai and Waiawa.

The developer, which topped off a 16,000-home, 40-year project in Mililani in 2008, now seeks to reclassify nearly 768 acres in Waipio and Waiawa from an agricultural to an urban designation. Such a ruling would allow Castle & Cooke to move forward on its long-stalled project, which has been planned since the 1990s.

Koa Ridge calls for 3,500 housing units and 500,000 square feet of commercial development, an elementary school, parks, recreation centers and churches to be built on about 575 acres makai of the H-2 freeway. At Waiawa, Castle & Cooke would build another 1,500 homes on 191 acres mauka of the H-2 near Ka Uka Boulevard. The development, which would offer homes from $200,000 to $1 million, would bring more affordable housing to Central Oahu, create some 2,500 jobs and create millions in state and county revenue, said Bruce Barrett, executive vice president of Castle & Cooke.

If the commission agrees to the request, the developer still must go before the city to get subdivision approval, but it will have met all major hurdles, as the LUC approved Castle & Cooke’s environmental impact statement in June. With all approvals, the company could break ground at the end of 2012.

A series of public hearings, which could take months and no doubt will reopen old wounds and mend some old fences, began yesterday. The LUC tentatively approved the project in 2002; however, community opposition and legal battles sent Castle & Cooke back to the drawing board after a state judge ruled that a formal environmental review was necessary before the subdivision, with its planned medical and commercial development, could be built.