Friday, March 23, 2001

opponents pack
hearing on planned
Waahila Ridge
power line

Proponents say the line will
prevent outages; opponents
push alternatives

By Diana Leone

The opponents of a proposed 138-kilovolt electric line on Waahila Ridge were easy to spot at a hearing in the state Capitol auditorium -- they were the ones with large stickers showing the international "no" symbol over 138kv.

Proponents were the ones in the yellow T-shirts that proclaimed: "The issues: need and fairness. Support Kamoku-Pukele."

Among the standing-room-only crowd at the hearing yesterday, the pros and the antis appeared to be out in roughly the same numbers --- at least 150 on each side.

Those who support the new electric line, to be built on poles ranging in height from 79 to 138 feet, clapped when Hawaiian Electric Co. employees testified that the extra power is needed to prevent potential blackouts in East and Windward Oahu.

Those in opposition applauded when members of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, which held the hearing, asked pointed questions about what it would cost to put the new lines underground.

The land board's permission is required to run the lines across state conservation land on the ridgetop. The Public Utilities Commission's permission is needed to pass on the costs to ratepayers.

Ken Morikami, HECO director of project management, said the utility's preferred plan would cost $31 million. Putting the entire project underground would cost $46 million.

Likelike Davis-Nutt, a HECO employee who lives in Hawaii Kai, was among the supporters of the new line.

"I support it because it gives us some reliability," she said before the hearing. "Where I live will have a blackout if this line is not completed."

But Henry Curtis pointed out that technology has changed in recent years, making centralized distribution of power less imperative.

Alternatives such as solar glaze and fuel cells can make buildings independent of the electric power grid, he said.

Curtis works with Life of the Land, one of a number of conservation and neighborhood groups that oppose the project.

Dozens of people had signed up to testify at the hearing. The Land Board was not going to vote on the matter yesterday.

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