Thursday, January 13, 2011


A ROCKY HORROR: Reading the newspaper this morning made us check whether we’d stumbled into a time warp reminding us that the more things change the more they remain insane.

As a kid we were struck by various things upon arrival in the islands, not the least of which was the fact that Native Hawaiian (as kanaka maoli were called in those days) were being born and dying on “the list” waiting for their promised homesteads and that some of their most sacred sites- specifically the island of Kaho`olawe and Makua Valley on O`ahu- were being routinely bombed by the US military.

And though the reclaiming, if not the reclamation, of Kaho`olawe was won as one of the first actions of what’s commonly called the Hawaiian Renaissance, people are still dying on the list and, although the bombing has been suspended for a few years due to lawsuits and activism, the military had been successful in keeping the door open.

So today’s news that the military promises it will end the madness in Makua- and move it to the Big Island, poor dears- and that the Intermediate court of Appeals has reinstated a lawsuit by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (which also filed suit in the Makua case), to enforce a constitutional provision from 1978 requiring the legislature to provide funding to clear “the list”, is kind of creepy.

But another battle from those days- one that seemingly will never be completely won- has reared it’s ugly head- once again plans are in the works to dam up Wailua River and build a hydro electric plant.

A press release we received today from Kaua`i Island Utilities Co-op (which apparently does not appear at their web site)- notable for the fact that it fails to mention the location of the project- says that KIUC

this week signed a memorandum of agreement with Free Flow Power Corporation, which will allow the two firms to jointly explore the development of hydroelectric energy projects on Kauai.

And as if designed to double us over with laughter it announces that:

KIUC's involvement will ensure that any such development will engage the community in broad discussions about appropriate technologies, locations and the wide range of environmental, cultural, economic and other concerns.

“This is the first step in a lengthy public process to explore the viability of several hydroelectric projects. Our members have long recognized the hydroelectric potential on Kauai, and we feel now we have the financial resources and the proven developer to move forward,” said David Bissell, acting CEO at KIUC. “We hope to create a climate that insures an opportunity for our members to participate in an open and transparent process of evaluating hydroelectric opportunities.”

Apparently the first step in transparency is failing to mention where the projects will be located and how to present testimony if you might happen to still oppose damming Wailua River like you did the other at least three times they tried to do it.

But it wasn’t like KIUC was just putting out a press release in the name of openness and good community relations.

We don’t know for sure but their hand might have been forced by a widely circulated email earlier this week from Judy Dalton of the Kaua`i Sierra Club who saw the legal notice in the newspaper, did a little snooping and sent out the alarm saying that:

Wailua Falls, one of Kauai's most visited natural treasures, will be in for some changes if this permit for a dam is approved.

There are more environmentally-sound options to harness hydro power. Please read and send comments to keep the river intact and the falls free-flowing.

She describes the project, taken from the legal notice, writing

A public notice was posted in the Garden Island (11/16/2010) with a request for a "preliminary permit" to study the feasibility of a Wailua River Hydroelectric Project. The project is to make electricity and includes: "a 503-foot-long, 23-foot-high earth-filled, roller-compacted-concrete dam creating a 35-acre reservoir with storage capacity of approximately 430 acre-feet" It also includes a 20 foot high intake structure, fish screens, a closure gate, a penstock, a powerhouse of 60 X 40 feet, channel to return water to the river, (below the falls) a switchyard with transformer, and almost 2 mile long transmission line to the Lydgate substation. No mention is made of roads and other changes that would be necessary. "The estimated annual generation of the Wailua project would be 20.7 gigawatt-hours."

So what’s wrong with that? Judy writes that:

Such a project will remove and reduce the water flow over the falls, create a large reservoir, cut up the land to make roads and other structures. Dams change the chemical, physical, and biological processes of river ecosystems. They alter free-flowing systems by reducing river levels, blocking the flow of nutrients, changing water temperature and oxygen levels, and impeding or preventing fish migration. Dams and reservoir are being decommissioned all over the mainland because of problems occurring which initially were unforeseen.

But don’t we need renewable power and so don’t we need to dam the river to get power from it?

The answer, according to Dalton is a resounding “no” saying

Harnessing power from the Wailua River could be done by a "run of the stream" project far upstream with NO diversions, NO interference with the fall themselves and NO man-made reservoir. Click here to read about Run-of-the-River or Stream hydro power.

So what can you do? Dalton says

It is important that there be many letters expressing reasons for disapproval of a dam on Wailua River. The company requesting to build it is also looking into other possible water projects on the island which are "run of the stream or ditch" projects, which would be preferable to a dam on Wailua River.

Please write comments on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission website NO LATER THAN JANUARY 16 (11:30 am Hawai`i time, 4:30 pm EST) Go to to make comments on-line Click on "ecomment", which takes you to a screen to enter your name, email address and a code provided. They then email you a link to write comments. Enter Docket P-13874. It will then show a box with a plus sign which you click and you can proceed to write comments. Keep to less than 6,000 characters; include your contact information and submit. If you need help with the website, contact Toll-free: 1-866-208-3676 (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST)

OR send a letter with 7 copies can be sent to arrive by January 16 to:

Kimberly Bose, Secretary Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

888 First St NE

Washington, DC 20426

Here is the link for finding the Wailua River Dam application online and searching for docket number P-13874. Already a dozen people have written testimony opposing the project.

It’s understandable that some quick buck artists from the mainland would see Wailua and think that damming it up would be a good idea.

But the fact that KIUC is trying to pull a fast one and put out bogus press releases that fail to mention the location and plans for a project that has been rejected by the community many times for over 40 years is, though par for the course for KIUC, a despicable con job and a slap in the face of we so-called “members”.


We’re taking a long weekend- see ya next week.


Blahblahblah said...

Before you lose your water, you might want to see the presentation and get a complete understanding of the situation. Admittedly KIUC should be providing that, but they've never been anything but a plantation mentality outfit.

A short dam (503 feet on fairly flat ground that only gives a lake of roughly 12-15 ft deep (430 acre/feet / 35 acres is probably just the minimum storage needed to make a run of the river project workable. That volume of stored water isn't squat compared to the river flow when it's been raining.

More simply put this may well be a run of the river project with the smallest dam/reservoir to make the project workable.

The size of the Francis turbines, 6.6 MW ( 1.8 + 4.8) is about the size proposed when this outfit (I think) first proposed a run of the river project nearly 10 years ago. So that's consistent.

Let's be against it if it's bad, but listen to make sure it's bad before we go postal. The island uses 55 MW roughly. Getting 10-15% from the Wailua river would be a good thing if we can safeguard the aquatic life.

Smokey Rain said...


Andy Parx said...

Anon567- Here's more info from Apollo-Kaua`i on what is being proposed- apparently is it not "run of the stream"

Blahblahblah said...

Meh. No new info in that post at Heartbeat.

First, "run of the river" doesn't mean "no dam" or simply water wheels in a flowing ditch. What is means is "no giant reservoir".

Other points:

1) a 35 acre reservoir is only about the size of the Kukui Grove center from Kmart to Macy's including the parking lots. It's small. That's hardly going to change access to the area.

2) water wheels make very little power. There's just too little differential in height (potential energy) to make much juice. Those are in the "why bother" category. Put up a windmill and leave the river alone if that's all you can do.

3) 430 acre feet = 140 million gallons or about half of what Ka Loko let loose. Waita is 430 acres with a 3000+ft dam which is of similar height. One source say's it's 2.3 billion gallons or 16X as big.

4) Wailua River flows can be huge in storms

85000 ft3/sec = 650,000 gallons/sec.

The reservoir would fill in 215 seconds at that flow.

A more typical annual peak flow is about 1/4 that amount

Normal flow is more like 100 ft3/sec if you look at the USGS data.

That's 2.7 million gallons/hr or 65 million gallons/day. So the reservoir would only hold 2 days of the normal stream flow. And that's total flow and there's no way anyone would be stupid enough to dry the falls to nothing.

That storage time may be enough to cause problems with water temps, but it's not much holding capacity at all so the project must be being sized to just take some of the river flow with the reservoir there just to allow you to leave more in the river in the day for the tourists and re-stock at night.

Again, I'd wait for the presentation before I got all bent out of shape. I have no $ interest or involvement. All this is just from googling around.