Monday, March 26, 2001

Power lines over
Waahila are needed

The issue: HECO has modified its
plans for high-voltage lines across
Waahila Ridge, but residents say
the changes are inadequate.

HAWAIIAN Electric Co. has spent years studying the effects of stringing high-voltage power lines between Moiliili and Palolo Valley, facing resistance throughout from many Manoa residents. In the absence of a compromise between HECO and opponents of the plan, replacing tall utility poles with taller ones is preferable to the risk of Oahu being subjected to a crippling power outage of the kind that has caused havoc recently in California.

A 138,000-volt line is needed to replace a lower-voltage line that runs from HECO's Kamoku Street substation near Iolani School to the Pukele substation in Palolo Valley. HECO originally envisaged an entirely overhead line at a cost of $23 million, but later decided to install the line underground in the urban area -- ironically against the wishes of some Palolo residents concerned about noise and traffic disruption associated with its construction.

That increased the price tag to $31 million, at a cost to all Oahu residents of an additional $6 a month on their electricity bills over the next 30 years. Installing the line underground for the entire distance, as the Manoa opponents desire, would add another $4 a month to residential electric bills and even more to businesses and government, which would pass on those costs to residents.

The 20 poles now present along the 3.8-mile stretch range in height from 45 to 60 feet. Seven of the replacement poles range from 109 to 120 feet, and two of those would replace poles in an area zoned for conservation. The only pole taller than that, at 138 feet, would be outside the conservation district.

Heco has altered its original plan to lower the height of some replacement poles planned on Waahila Ridge above St. Louis Heights. Opponents complain they still would be unsightly, interrupting scenic views from Punchbowl to Diamond Head. The company also has tried to assuage opposition by agreeing to try camouflaging the poles by painting them colors that blend with their surroundings and planting native vegetation nearby.

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources' permission is required for the lines to run across the conservation land, and the board last week heard testimony from both sides. The Public Utility Commission also must approve the proposal.

Mary Steiner of the Outdoor Circle complained to the land board that Waahila Ridge's beauty "will be lost forever" if the project is approved. One opponent suggested that technological changes have made centralized distribution of power less imperative.

We disagree. Technology has not yet progressed to the point that a reliable infrastructure is no longer needed to support homes and industry. When that day comes, perhaps the high-voltage lines may be taken down. Power poles do not last forever.

Bush’s first
encounter with
China inauspicious

The issue: President Bush has begun
dealing with what will most likely be
his most difficult foreign policy issue,
U.S. relations with China.

President Bush's opening move in the complicated issue of Sino-U.S. relations was a welcome change from that of his predecessor. President Clinton vacillated like a willow in the wind, while Bush looked his Chinese guest, Vice Premier Qian Qichen, in the eye and said, "I will be firm."

At the same time, the president and his advisers were less than forthright with the American people, which was a mistake. If Bush is to forge a workable China policy, it must have public and congressional support. His spokesmen, however, lacked candor in disclosing what the president discussed with his Chinese visitor in Washington last week.

A "senior administration official" briefed the press after the meeting but the transcript contains mostly cryptic answers, few details, and little about the nuances of the discussion.

U.S. relations with China are particularly significant for Hawaii. China is the rising power in the Asia-Pacific region of which Hawaii is part; where China goes will affect our lives and especially the lives of our children. Then, some companies here seek to do business in China, operating under the umbrella of Sino-U.S. relations.

If the United States is confronted with a belligerent China, the military command here will be the focal point of American action and U.S. forces here may be quickly engaged.

In their meetings, the two leaders skirted the issue of Taiwan, which China claims but whose people seek to remain separate.

They also avoided the question of new U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, a issue which Bush must decide upon by the end of April.

President Bush brought up the repression of human rights in China and the arrest of a Chinese-born scholar, Gao Zhan, who lives in the United States. That brought a retort from President Jiang Zemin, who said in the Washington Post, "Why do you frequently take special interest in cases such as this?"

Jiang thus underscored the yawning cultural gap between China and the United States; he evidently does not understand the American regard for the civil rights of citizens and residents, however ineffectively those rights may be pursued at times.

Not a promising start.

Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, President

John Flanagan, publisher and editor in chief 529-4748;
Frank Bridgewater, managing editor 529-4747;
Michael Rovner,
assistant managing editor 529-4751;
Lucy Young-Oda, assistant managing editor 529-4751;
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