Monday, February 22, 1999

Dispute over
Lihue power
plants fades

Plan would put all new
plants near Kauai's geographical
and population center

By Anthony Somer


LIHUE -- Much of the initial criticism of Kauai Electric's plan to put all new power plants in the Lihue area appears to have faded over the past year and a half, but it has not disappeared entirely.

The chosen site will be the location of all power plants built on Kauai for at least the next 50 years. Existing power plants are at Port Allen on the west side of the island.

The final decision will be up to the Kauai Planning Commission.

The deadline for public comment on a draft environmental impact statement for the new plant was two weeks ago and 38 letters were received. Roughly one third of those made comments supporting construction of future power plants near Lihue.

But even some of those who agreed Lihue is the best location disagreed on the exact place to put what the company calls an "Energy Service Center."

Some said they would much prefer to see it in an industrial area near Lihue airport than close to Kauai Community College, which is the power company's "preferred site."

About another third wanted generating plants to continue to be at Port Allen to preserve the views mauka of Lihue and to protect Lihue area residents from possible air and water pollution.

And another third was opposed to any kind of fossil fuel power plants anywhere on Kauai. Most argued that power savings through conservation and use of such technologies as solar and wind power generation would provide for future electricity demands.

Kauai Electric repeatedly has said it wants all new plants closer to the geographical and population center of the island.

Initially, the utility proposed a location in what is now agricultural land mauka of Kauai Community College and Puhi. After the initial criticism, the power company added alternative sites mauka of Lihue and adjacent to Lihue Airport.

The major enthusiasm for the airport site came from Ernest Lau, Kauai Water Department chief engineer, who strongly opposed the original location.

Lau said the primary site is undesirable because of the threat of contamination to a major groundwater source from fuel tanks on the power-plant property.

Either of the two alternatives would be better and the airport site would be best, Lau said.

Support for the airport site also came from Ray Chuan, a retired physicist and environmental activist on Kauai. There appeared to be little support for the other alternative, just outside Lihue.

Kauai Electric insists the design of the plant will prevent any leaks from seeping into groundwater.

General Manager Denny Polosky said the airport site likely would not be approved by the planning commission even if it moves to the top of the utility's list.

"I'm not sure anybody wants to look at a power plant as they're landing on Kauai," he said.

Polosky said Kauai Electric will review all the comments before making a final decision, which probably will be announced when the final impact statement is published this spring.

And even that choice, he noted, will be the subject of public hearings by the planning commission when the company applies for permits, probably in the summer.

The contract to build the first generating unit already has been signed. It will produce 26 megawatts and go on line in 2002.

Polosky said there will not be a need for another generating station on the new site until 2012 at the earliest.

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