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Save fertile soil at Ho'opili site


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POSTED: Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ho'opili will be built on “;prime”; agricultural land, classified as A and B soils by the University of Hawaii Land Study. How special are A and B lands? There is not one acre of A land on the entire Big Island. Molokai has a small amount of A land, but no B soils. There are no A or B soils at all on Lanai, Kahoolawe or Niihau.

Much of Oahu's A and B lands have already been covered over by Mililani, Waipio, Waikele, Village Park, Royal Kunia, Ewa and Kapolei. We must save what is left.

Dr. Goro Uehara, professor of Soil Science at the University of Hawaii who has studied soils in many different countries, says this is the best farmland in the world. Why? It's not just the great A and B soils, Oahu is also perfectly situated in the island chain. Big Island soil is still very young, while the soils of Kauai are so old they have lost much of their energy. Oahu lands are mature, robust and fully ready to produce. And, unlike farms in most of the world where the soil is frozen all winter, our farms produce year-round.

But what makes the Ewa farms so special on Oahu? It is a low-lying area, with plenty of sun and gentle winds, and an abundance of clean, cheap water. Surprisingly, perhaps, lots of rain isn't good for farming. What crops really need in order to grow is sunlight. Higher farms with frequent cloud cover have major problems with root rot and with insects that love the wet conditions. Higher elevations have pH levels that require expensive soil remediation for alkalinity or acidity. Ewa farms have none of these problems. Warm, sunny days allow them to produce four crops a year, compared to three on the North Shore and in the central highlands, and two in Waimanalo. And the Ewa lands are close to markets.

These are major advantages. They allow Ewa farmers to produce fresh, high quality fruits and vegetables at prices that can compete with imported products.

As Ho'opili is built, the Ewa farms will completely disappear. There is simply no place to move their 1,555 acres of crops.

All of Kunia is sold except 400 acres, which have all of the highland problems mentioned above, and no guaranteed water.

The North Shore highlands are relatively empty, but that land is irrigated with water from Lake Wilson. Filled with silt saturated with sewage from Wahiawa and Schofield Barracks for decades, state regulations prohibit using its water on edible crops that touch the ground. That includes almost all crops grown on the Ewa farms.

All of the other arable land on Oahu is already taken.

Neighbor islands have open lands, but transportation adds so much to the cost that farmers can't compete.

With nowhere to go, the Ewa farms will close. Once the land is covered, it can never be reclaimed.

Can we really afford to lose our highest producing farmland? Is that fair to future generations?

A final note about the prime soil: Its high clay content expands and contracts, causing foundations to crack, so it needs to be excavated. Being “;no good for anything,”; in the past, it's often been taken to the dump.

So let's get it straight: They are going to close down our highest producing farms, excavate the best soil in the world and take it to the dump, then fill the holes with coral, and build houses, many of which will be bought by people who don't live here, so that D.R. Horton, a mainland developer, can take the profits elsewhere.

Well, we can't eat houses.

Write the Land Use Commission at P.O. Box 2359, Honolulu, 96804, or at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). For more information, or to sign our petition, check out http://www.stophoopili.com.

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Dr. Kioni Dudley, as president of the Friends of Makakilo, is an intervenor before the Land Use Commission for people affected by the project. The commission meets Friday on the Ho'opili project.
Editor's note: D.R. Horton-Schuler Homes, with ties in Texas and Hawaii, is the developer of Ho'opili.