Power towers’ fate lies
with state Land Board

A decision on HECO's Waahila Ridge
project is expected by mid-July

By Diana Leone

Whether to allow Hawaiian Electric to build new, 138-kilovolt electric transmission lines on Waahila Ridge above Manoa and Palolo valleys now lies in the hands of the Board of Land & Natural Resources.

The board heard final arguments from parties in the contested-case hearing yesterday before a standing-room-only crowd at the state Capitol auditorium. It has until mid-July to decide the matter.

HECO claims that it needs to link its Kamoku substation in McCully with the Pukele substation in upper Palolo Valley via the proposed line over Waahila Ridge as a backup for electricity customers in Waikiki, East Honolulu and Windward Oahu should the normal transmission lines fail.

Opponents question the need for the line, based on HECO's own calculations, and argue that larger power poles will mar the scenic beauty of Waahila Ridge and interfere with recreational and Hawaiian cultural activities there.

Guy Archer, attorney for the Outdoor Circle, praised HECO for being 98 percent to 99 percent reliable and asked, "Do we want a gold-plated system? ... We're talking redundancy here, not reliability, the way I see it."

Ben Kudo, attorney for HECO, emphasized how the utility wants to "avoid any blackout" and would make the project look better by painting the new steel poles (up to 110 feet tall), making native plantings around them and moving a couple of them downslope to make them less visible.

Life of the Land, Malama O Manoa and the Outdoor Circle reiterated that the cosmetic moves would not have a big enough effect.

They pointed to a hearing officer's recommendation that the board deny HECO's request because it had not shown that the public benefit of the project outweighed its adverse effects.

State Board of Land and Natural Resources

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