One small sacrifice to help a bigger cause.
That’s what Kahuku resident Dana Yamauchi figured he’d do by getting arrested before dawn today near the site of a 25-megawatt wind farm planned in his community.
“Even if it makes just a little bit of change,” he said. “It’s the effort that counts. It means so much to me that this is going to be worth it. I’m proud to be from Kahuku.”
Yamauchi was one of three people arrested by Honolulu Police Department officers early this morning in Kahuku after refusing to move away from the driveway of the wind farm site where trucks were waiting on Kamehameha Highway to deliver four turbine tower sections on trailers brought from Kalaeloa Harbor.
Another three were arrested Monday night at Kalaeloa as they tried to block the convoy of turbine parts from getting started on the journey to Kahuku.
The six protesters, who were cited for disobedience to police officer, each posted $100 bail and were released, an HPD spokeswoman said.
The latest arrests bring the total to more than 100 protesters cited since the attempted blockades started late Thursday. Police arrested 55 people when the protest started late Thursday and early Friday, and 40 people more when it resumed Sunday night and early Monday.
In Kahuku, about 50 HPD officers on bicycles road up to the site from the nearby police station at about 4 a.m. to cordon off the driveway to the project site from a group of about 90 demonstrators.
Some in the crowd referred to the police procession as a parade kicking off “showtime” in which officers warn demonstrators to move or face arrest.
Yamauchi, 20, recalled being in 6th grade at Kahuku Elementary School when the first wind farm was established in the community.
The Na Pua Makani project by Virginia-based AES Corp. would be the second in Kahuku and third on the North Shore, but will have far bigger turbines that are also closer to homes, the school and farms.
Though Yamauchi said he wasn’t too aware of issues surrounding the controversial AES project that has been in the works for about a decade and pursued by two other companies before AES, he decided to visit the protest site in Kahuku for the first time today after being inspired by neighbors, family and friends who have taken part in efforts to stop turbine equipment deliveries since last week.
“Kahuku is my home,” he said. “I’d rather have a failed try than not try at all.”
After a few warnings from an HPD sergeant, most demonstrators moved to the side of the driveway, leaving Yamauchi and two others next to a temporary fence along the driveway entrance.
As the three demonstrators were peacefully carried to a waiting van by police, supporters of the Ku Kiai Kahuku group trying to stop Na Pua Makani called out their appreciation to those being carted away.
“Love you Mana,” said one supporter, referring to Kaimana Finau, who was identified by group members as the first person loaded into the waiting police van.
Other comments from different people in the crowd followed: “That’s my nephew.” “That’s my neighbor.” “Yeah Mana.” “Mahalo Mana.”
Appreciation flowed to Yamauchi with the shout-out “Ya you junior,” followed by calls of support for the third person arrested. She was identified by group members as Trisha Renaud. “Love you sister,” said one supporter. “Trisha, love you,” said another.
The arrests took place at about 4:15 a.m., and by 4:30 a.m. AES crews had removed the driveway fencing and the trucks made their delivery.
The four turbine tower sections appear to be for one tower out of eight turbines comprising the AES project. Three blades were delivered Monday after 13 arrests in Kahuku and 27 in Kalaeloa. Four other turbine parts were delivered Friday morning after 33 arrests in Kahuku and 22 in Kalaeloa.
Each turbine including blades is 568 feet tall. The closest turbine would be 0.3 mile from the nearest homes and Kahuku Elementary School, and 0.1 mile from the nearest farm.
Although some Kahuku residents support Na Pua Makani, which has committed to contribute $4.5 million in community benefits, many area residents say the turbines lead to health problems that include migraines, nausea and other physiological symptoms caused by constant noises and shadows from the spinning blades. Opponents of the project also say it’s wrong to allow the project to incidentally kill Hawaiian hoary bats under a state permit.
AES said its wind turbines will have no ill health effects and have obtained all regulatory approvals after numerous public meetings and legal challenges. The company also said it will mitigate bat deaths by improving bat habitat.
The 25-megawatt wind farm is scheduled to start operating next year and has the capacity to produce enough renewable energy to power about 15,000 homes at about the same cost as oil-fired power while helping the state reach its goal for 100% renewable energy by 2045.
AES is permitted to deliver turbine parts from Sunday nights through Friday mornings between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. The company expects that it could take until Nov. 26 to deliver all the equipment.
Wind turbine parts loaded onto four semi-trucks began leaving the AES Corp.’s Kalaeloa yard at 11:17 p.m. Monday and were out in less than 15 minutes.
Three protesters were arrested before 11 p.m. and members of the protest group said they would bail out the three women after the last truck left.
One concern was that the bail money provided by a nonprofit may have run out of funds or that access to the funds were not readily available, so only a few people chose to get arrested Monday night.
Isaac Silva of Kahuku said his wife, Rachel Kekaula, 36, was one of the three who were arrested and noted it took 27 minutes to arrest them.
But “we need more people on the front lines,” he said.
He said at about 12:02 a.m. today that it’s his wife’s birthday. He told the crowd, “Just to see the three wahine makes me proud.”
Mike Camit, 42, of Kahuku, said the wind turbines are too big (the largest in the U.S.) and too close to his children’s school, Kahuku Elementary School (1,500 feet away), and to their home (2,000 feet away).
He was particularly upset that they may affect his epileptic son, possibly bringing on seizures by the shadow flicker and the constant low-frequency noise.
People from all around the island came to support the cause, including a man and a woman who arrived by Lyft from Manoa.
Kaukaohu Wahilini of Waianae, said there is a “unified effort,” and he “heeded the call from Kahuku. When have you seen Waianae help Kahuku? We are vested in Hawaii.”
He objects to the practice of “private corporations using HPD as their security to disperse us.”
He said that non-violent direct action is their tool.
“The plan is to hold them back as much as we can,” said Alfred Medeiros, 36, who lives in Manoa but is originally from Waianae.
He commented how Waianae and Kahuku butt heads on the football field, but “people are just coming together” to support one another.
“TMT – It’s not about telescopes. It’s that people don’t get heard.”
The large group numbering roughly 100 to 150 said a prayer before dispersing.
Nakia Naeole, who is one of the spokesmen for the group, said they have received information that AES is deviating from the planned route, which may violate its permit to travel on the public roadways because they “are carrying loads that are much larger than normal.”
He said that the information he received is that the trucks are taking the H-2 cutoff to Mililani and Wahiawa.
Law enforcement officers appeared to outnumber opponents of the AES wind farm project, with more than 100 in Kalaeloa tonight.
Police arrested before 11 p.m. three young women who sat in the middle of the driveway leading to the AES yard.
Many there had already been arrested Sunday night.
The group of protesters, opposed to the wind warm to be built in Kahuku, chanted and sang in unison.
“Ku Kiai Kahuku!” “Aloha Aina!” “Ku Kiai Mauna Kea!” “Ku Kiai Waimanalo.”
They protested the use of Honolulu Police Department as security for private corporations.