Pattern Energy Group is expected to “engage all of the community”
Molokai Properties Ltd. said it is teaming up with a new company to develop a proposed wind energy project on the island after it was unable to come to terms with its previous partner, First Wind LLC.
MPL joined forces with San Francisco-based Pattern Energy Group on the project that, as envisioned, would transmit wind-generated electricity to Oahu via an undersea cable. The project, with 90 wind turbines and a generating capacity of 200 megawatts, represents half of the so-called Big Wind project that would include the transmission of an equal amount of wind energy from Lanai to Oahu.
Executives from Pattern and Molokai Properties held three community meetings in early March to brief the community on the proposal, said Peter Nicholas, MPL’s chief executive officer. Nicholas said he hoped Pattern’s plan would be better received by the community than what had been proposed by First Wind.
MPL broke off talks with First Wind in November following two rounds of negotiations in which the two sides were unable to reach agreement on a land price and the approach to community involvement. MPL, which also does business as Molokai Ranch, owns 60,000 acres on Molokai, or about 40 percent of the island.
Molokai Properties Ltd. (MPL) is petitioning the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to designate about 5,000 acres of its west end grazing lands under a 99-year Important Agriculture Land classification. But that designation hangs in the balance as the state decides if ranching land qualifies for the zoning change.
If granted, Peter Nicholas, CEO of MPL, would lease the land to local rancher Jimmy Duvauchelle under a 20-year contract. Besides cattle ranching, the land would also host 4-H events and rodeos according the MPL propsal.
Duvauchelle, who said he has ranched west Molokai his entire life, currently owns Pohakuloa Ranch which is situated on 3,000 acres within the proposed designated area. The ranch employs about seven cowboys and other staff.
Duvauchelle also manages Diamond B Ranch for its Maui owner, Brendan Balthazar, also a lessee of MPL. The land designation would allow Duvauchelle to take over the 1000 acres of Diamond B Ranch which is also within MPL’s petitioned area.
Duvauchelle says he is confident that with the go-ahead of the proposed classification, he can double his herd from about 250 to 500 cattle.
A Scrutinized Review
Last week, the Land Use Commission and the DOA visited the site and discussed the designation’s merits with members of the public.
It seems lately, everyone has been hosting meetings on alternative energy options for Molokai – the state, the federal government, community members – and now, land owners.
Peter Nicholas, CEO of Molokai Properties Ltd (MPL) said he has set up three meetings around the Molokai community to discuss the potential benefits and pitfalls of a wind farm. He added MPL is not currently negotiating or having talks with any wind energy company.
“There are dozens of questions that we have,” he said recently. “We are arranging to have someone there who will be a real expert on wind farms.”
MPL will be holding a meeting on March 2 at the Mitchell Pauole Center; March 3 at the Maunaloa Rec Center; and March 4 at Kilohana School. All meetings will begin at 5:30 p.m.
“This is just one of a 10-step process to find out what people really want,” Nicholas added. “The issue of a wind farm for Molokai and MPL land is a vexing question…and has the potential to deeply divide the community.”
WAILUKU – Two years into the county’s legal battle with Molokai Properties over who should manage utilities set up by the now-defunct Molokai Ranch, county officials estimate that the parties have spent well over $1 million in legal fees, which could go even higher if a settlement isn’t reached before a planned October trial.
At the same time, some Molokai residents are paying four times as much as they used to for water – a painful burden for a community struggling with double-digit unemployment. And just how much those residents will have to pay in water rates long term is still awaiting final approval by the state Public Utilities Commission.
“You can’t get blood from a turnip,” said Maui County Chairman Danny Mateo, who holds the council’s Molokai seat. “People will suffer.”
But Molokai Properties attorney Jim Bickerton said the company’s proposal is for a “break even” rate in the face of rising fuel and other costs.
He said the company is proposing a rate hike in the 50-percent range, which would come on top of a rate increase last year.
Meanwhile, the county’s suit against Molokai Properties is heading toward a risky – and expensive – trial now scheduled to start Oct. 25 before 2nd Circuit Judge Joel August.
The county has already paid $500,000 for former state Attorney General Margery Bronster to serve as outside counsel, in addition to the time spent by county attorneys on the case.
When asked if the county could reach a settlement with Molokai Properties before the case goes to trial, Bronster said Saturday that she “can’t say anything more, but probably something will happen before the end of the month. It’s premature to talk now.”
MPL is held legally responsible for the actions of its utilities.
County of Maui Press Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 13, 2009
The First Circuit Court ruled on July 15, 2009 that Molokai Properties, Ltd. (MPL) is legally responsible for the actions of the Molokai utility companies whose stock MPL owns. The appeal arose out of MPL’s threat last year to shut down water and wastewater utilities providing service to some 1,200 Molokai residents.
West Molokai could have lost services in August
By EDWIN TANJI City Editor
WAILUKU ? The state Public Utilities Commission has advised Molokai Properties Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Peter Nicholas that the company cannot shut down its utility companies providing water and wastewater services in west Molokai.
By CHRIS HAMILTON, Staff Writer
WAILUKU ? The state auditor issued a blistering report last week charging the state Department of Agriculture with mismanaging the Molokai Irrigation System while simultaneously allowing it to deteriorate over a period of decades.
The irrigation system is crucial to the island?s agriculture-based economy but draws only about 4 million gallons a day ? less than 10 percent of its projected capacity when it was first planned.
?We found that while the Department of Agriculture inherited a broken system, little has been done to learn about system problems or to create a plan to address them,? state Auditor Marion Higa wrote in her 57-page report. ?The department?s flawed management endangers agriculture in Molokai.?
However, state Agriculture Chairwoman Sandra Kunimoto called most of the report?s criticisms ?overreaching? in a telephone interview Friday.
She said she felt as though the report?s dramatic statements weren?t backed up by the actual details contained within it.