KAHUKU, OAHU - An endangered native bat is at the center of a fight over a controversial wind farm proposal on Oahu's North Shore. Concerned residents showed up for Monday's contested case hearing for the Na Pua Makani project in Kahuku.
The facility would include 8 or 9 wind turbines. The developer, Na Pua Makani Power Partners, considered different models ranging from 427 feet to 656 feet in height. A company spokesman said the wind turbine generators used in the project will be 500 to 600 feet tall. The developer is seeking a permit that would allow the project to harm or kill certain threatened and endangered species, including 51 Hawaiian hoary bats over a 21 year period.
"We do not support something that will harm or kill, especially something of cultural significance to us, and we do not support the desecration of our community and our way of life," said Kahuku resident Charlotte Kamauoha.
The developer also needs approval of its Habitat Conservation Plan which must show a net recovery benefit to the affected species. The company has created mitigation plans for the bat and other endangered species.
"The $4.6 million that's been budgeted for mitigation includes habitat restoration, research, and the ongoing physical monitoring at the project," explained Mike Cutbirth, a Na Pua Makani Power Partners spokesman.
Critics, however, aren't convinced the steps will make any difference.
"Currently, all major wind farms in Hawaii have exceeded their amount of take that they've been approved for. In fact, the two existing wind farms on Oahu have already killed over 70 bats in just a few years of operation," said Maxx Phillips, an attorney for Keep the North Shore Country.
The company said the wind project will stabilize electricity rates and create new jobs. There is also a $2 million benefit fund for the Kahuku community.
"I think that the residents can actually sleep well at night in that the agencies have really done their job to make sure that there's no significant adverse impact from this project," Cutbirth said.