Friday, December 3, 1999

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Protesters opposed to Hawaiian Electric Co.'s plan
to route high-voltage lines along Waahila Ridge march
past the HECO building in downtown Honolulu yesterday.

Marchers decry Heco’s
Waahila Ridge plan

By Treena Shapiro


Demonstrators formed a human line along King Street yesterday to protest the proposed 138,000-volt transmission line over Waahila Ridge.

A rally at Iolani Palace drew about 100 people -- from neighborhood boards, environmental groups, cultural and historical preservation societies and Manoa, Palolo and St. Louis Heights neighborhoods -- collectively called the Safe Power Action Network.

Most protesters waved signs in front of or across from the Hawaiian Electric Co. building on the corner of King and Richards streets.

The proposed line starts at the Kamoku substation at Date and Kamoku streets, travels through the University of Hawaii lower campus, under Dole Street, over Waahila Ridge and into the Pukele substation at the back of Palolo Valley.

"Imagine a rainbow. Manoa is famous for its rainbows," said Gary Anderson, an artist and member of the Manoa neighborhood board. "Now imagine the power lines superimposed over this rainbow. If that is not a degradation of a view plane, I don't know what is."

Vicky Takamine, Kumu Hula of the Ilioulaokalani Coalition, said every inch of Oahu is sacred to the Hawaiians, especially the mountaintops, which they call wao akua, a place for the gods.

"It means people and electric poles don't belong there," she said.

Takamine was one of the protesters who preferred underground lines instead of 70- to 100-foot steel towers on Waahila Ridge.

Chuck Freedman, vice president of corporate relations for Heco, said the cost for an underground line would be between $8 million and $15 million dollars above the $31 million cost for the proposed combination of aboveground and underground lines. "The cost for this line would be paid for by all of Oahu's rate-payers," he said.

According to Mary Steimer, chief executive officer of the environmental group Outdoor Circle, Heco has failed to demonstrate a need for the line.

"It's not a matter of aboveground or underground," she said. "It's a matter of no need."

But Freedman said that during the rally, one of the two lines to the Pukele substation serving urban Oahu and Waikiki was down for maintenance. "If the other line goes down, we black out the whole area," he said.

The proposed line is needed to improve customer reliability for 54 percent of Oahu's customers, Freedman said.

"We need to move forward with it for the security and safety of the community, not to mention Hawaii's economy," he said.

"If there's a better way to do this which balances cost and reliability, people should express what that is, but however that line is designed, we need the line as soon as possible to solve the reliability problem," Freedman said.

"If people want to have an effect, they should read the first volume of the draft environmental impact statement and submit their comments by Dec. 7. That's the formal way to participate," Freedman said.

Copies of the statement are available to the public at state libraries, UH Hamilton Library, Department of Land and National Resources, State Office of Environmental Quality Control, State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism Library, Legislative Reference Bureau and the Honolulu Municipal Reference and Records Center.

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