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Kahuku wind farm opponents protest along Kamehameha Highway

A group opposed to a planned wind farm on Oahu’s North Shore are protesting along Kamehameha Highway in Kahuku today in an effort to stop development of the project.

“We do plan to stand our ground because our kids and our kupuna and our community, they’re important to us and we plan to stay out there for as long as we have to to ensure the safety of our people and our community and Native Hawaiian wildlife,” said Kananiloaanuenue Ponciano, president of Ku Kiai Kahuku.

Approximately 200 people participated in a peaceful demonstration against the project at Kahuku District Park at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday. The community is going to be “impacted by these monstrous turbines that are being planned to come in essentially in our backyards,” Ponciano said.

At about 9 p.m., more than 25 opponents of the project, including community members from Waianae, Kapolei and Waimanalo, were successful in halting equipment for the project from leaving a baseyard in Kalaeloa.

Members of Ku Kiai Kahuku camped overnight near the entrance of the Kahuku Agricultural Park where a roadway leads to a site slated for the installation of four of the eight turbines.

Community members dropped off cheeseburgers and pizza Sunday night and homemade muffins, fruit and bottled water this morning at an open canopy tent set up near the park outfitted with Hawaii state flags flying overhead and ti leaves tied to tent poles.

The demonstration continued this morning with sign-waving where motorists honked their horns as they drove pass to show their support.

Ponciano said, “There has been an overwhelmingly wave of love and support not only from our community but the entire island of Oahu.”

The planned wind farm would be the second wind farm in Kahuku and the third on the North Shore.

Ayesha Liquorish of Ku Kiai Kahuku said Kahuku that is comprised of approximately 2,300 residents will be surrounded by wind turbines. “What other community is surrounded by turbines?” she asked.

The planned wind farm is being developed by Virginia-based AES Corp., which is operating in Hawaii as Na Pua Makani Power Partners.

Company representatives were not immediately available for comment today.

People opposed to the planned wind farm on the island’s North Shore took to the side of Kamehameha Highway just outside of Kahuku to wave signs on Monday. Melissa Ka’onohi-Camit carries a protest sign as a confrontation with protesters and security for AES (in lime green vests) begins to unfold behind her.

Mera Kekaula of Kahuku urged the gathering of the protesters to stand their ground as several pieces of heavy equipment and trucks were brought to the site of the protest off Kamehameha Highway on Monday.

AES announced that transporting equipment from Kalaeloa Harbor to Kahuku would start Sunday night and continue over the next seven weeks Sunday through Friday morning between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. until Nov. 26.

As part of the scheduled work transporting tower and turbine parts on wide trailers taking up more than one lane of traffic, some narrow roadways were scheduled to be closed on the North Shore between midnight and 2:30 a.m. this week.

AES has said it began some construction work on its site in Kahuku in January and anticipated completing the project next summer.

The Na Pua wind farm plan involves eight turbines generating up to 25 megawatts of electricity daily, or enough to power about 9,000 homes and at half the cost of burning oil.

The project was proposed in 2009, and AES is the third company trying to realize the plan that has generated a mix of opposition and support from the Kahuku community.

One of the main complaints from some residents is that the turbines are positioned too close to homes, farms and Kahuku Elementary School.

Jessica dos Santos, a Ku Kiai Kahuku leader, said AES representatives disclosed at a community meeting last month that the closest turbines would be 1,648 feet from a residential area and 1,750 feet from the school. She also said that farms where people reside would be only 750 feet from a turbine.

Ku Kiai Kahuku also contend the planned wind farm will cause contamination to drinking water, claiming the project is slated to be situated on two watersheds.

AES has denied that there would be any harmful effects on area residents from the proximity of its turbines, and states that it is complying with setback requirements under city rules.

Another objection to the project has to do with turbines killing Hawaiian hoary bats. AES has agreed to mitigation measures to improve bat habitat that offsets expected incidental deaths, but some project opponents have said the bats are sacred animals in Hawaiian culture that they need to protect.