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Friday, February 23, 2024

Kaʻū News Briefs Feb. 23, 2024

The view from Ocean View, celebrated by Kaʻū Radio 104.7 FM, which has announced a live broadcast from outside Malama Market on Saturday, March 9 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or until pau. Photo from Kaʻū Radio
A MEET YOUR KAʻŪ RADIO STATION EVENT is set for Saturday, March 9 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., or until pau outside of Malama Market in Ocean View. There will be live broadcasting on 104.7 FM under the canopy with local DJs.
    Attendees are invited to meet the radio crew, ask questions, sign up to volunteer. Opportunities include hosting a show.
    Founder Tim Reed said Kaʻū Radio is Ocean View's first 100 percent legal FM radio station.

                                             Candlelight Induction for Kaʻū Honor Society
    Kaʻū High's National Honor Society held a candlelight ceremony on Friday evening to induct its members into the organization. The advisors for the society are teachers David and Chayanee Brooks. See names of the members and learn about their activities in upcoming Kaʻū News BriefsPhoto by Julia Neal

COUNTY COUNCIL MEMBER MICHELLE GALIMBA FILED A LETTER SHARING COMMUNITY OPPOSITION TO CONSTRUCTION OF 18 SOLAR FARMS IN OCEAN VIEW RANCHOS. The letter went to the state Public Utilities Commission concerning the use of house lots for commercial solar farms in residential neighborhoods, among existing homes. The solar developer is SPI. The project has also drawn concern from the state Consumer Advocate.
    Galimba wrote, "As the Hawai'i County Council Member for District 6, which includes the site for SPI's proposed Feed In Tariff (FIT) project in the community of Ocean View, and specifically in the Ranchos residential subdivision of Ocean View, I would like to communicate my constituent communities' concerns about and strong opposition to the proposed SPI project.
    "I would also like to echo the concerns expressed by the Consumer Advocate in regard to adverse impacts on the cost of power for all ratepayers on the Island of Hawai'i. I understand that Hawaiian
Electric (formerly HELCO) must purchase power from the Ocean View Project at the FIT rate of 23.8c per kWh – a generous rate set in about 2010. At present, more modern projects with battery storage are coming online for less than 10c per kWh. If built, this project would have the effect of driving up already high prices, and producing revenue for SPI, which will largely flow off island. This project will have a lasting negative impact on all ratepayers in Hawai'i County for the next 20 years and add to the already difficult economic realities that working families face in our County and State.
    "I understand that a hearing officer had been appointed for the above-referenced Formal Complaint and the FIT Program. Complementary to the hearing officer's investigations, I would like to bring to the Commission's attention some local issues that may fall outside the officer's purview but are part of my responsibility to communicate issues concerning the health, welfare, and future of my constituents.
    "This project poses substantial risks that could result in fatal fires akin to the one which destroyed
Lahaina on Maui. Ocean View is in the path of the same trade-winds that drive the Pakini Nui Wind Farm at Kalae (South Point.) Electrical malfunction, whether caused by fallen poles or lines, equipment faults or accidents, arson, theft, or sabotage could generate a brush fire which could spread quickly to adjacent homes. Additionally, there is no piped water, and no fire hydrants serving the sites slated for the solar installations. Furthermore, Ocean View only has a volunteer fire department with one fire truck. As such, siting this project in a residential subdivision with substandard safety infrastructure is a poor policy decision that exposes the State to risk and liability.
    "It is my understanding that the FIT program was developed over 14 years ago to encourage agricultural producers to develop or host solar energy projects. While technically zoned Agricultural, the land that SPI proposed to locate the Ocean View project is a rural residential subdivision and thus the proposed project is not appropriately sited. Furthermore, SPI is not an agricultural producer, but rather an off-shore company. As such revenues from this project will not benefit local communities.
Houselots within neighborhoods with privacy and 'ohia trees would be
cleared to build industrial solar farms. Photo from Annie Bosted
   "Finally I would like to note that this project is extremely unpopular among local residents in the community of Ocean View, as well as against the best economic interests of residents of rate-payers in Hawai'i as a whole," concluded Galimba's letter.
   A petition for the PUC, signed by more than 700 OV residents, cited fire danger, industrialization of a rural community and other concerns as objections to the project. A formal complaint against HECO and HELCO for mismanagement of the Feed In Tariff Program was filed at the PUC by Ocean View residents in 2016. At that time the project to construct 18 solar farms on housing lots among existing homes was put on hold while the PUC investigated the complaint. That investigation is on going.
     Galimba's letter comes on the heels of a letter from SPI in an email to PUC Hearing Officer Mike Wallerstein, concerning "crippling delays" in approvals for the project. Wallerstein copied other parties to the case, including the complainants from Ocean View. Both SPI's attorneys and Wallerstein allude to the Lahina fires as the cause of the delay in advancing in the Ocean View solar case. An attorney representing the solar developer, SPI,  wrote in an email to the PUC Hearing Officer Wallerstein:
Michelle Galimba
   "As you know, when Intervenors filed their Motion to Move this Matter to a Final Decision and Order back in November of 2022, the parties had been waiting for the scheduling of the evidentiary hearing in this matter for over a year, and so your prompt action of finally holding the evidentiary hearing in June of 2023 was, and is, greatly appreciated.
    "As all parties have now completed their Post-Hearing Briefs in September 2023, respectfully, we would like to know if you are able to give a time frame for the recommended decision to be issued in this matter?
    "We certainly understand that there are pressing matters circling the Commission (especially since the events of this past August) and thus, we understand if you can't. However, any input that you can offer as to the expected timing would be greatly appreciated, as our clients are urgently seeking to plan their future course of action amidst these ongoing, crippling delays," concluded the SPI email.

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AN EXTENSION ON PUBLIC INPUT TO FINALIZE THE COUNTY GENERAL PLAN has been issued, along with a new policy rationale document for citizen review. Hawaiʻi County announces April 1 as the new deadline for the extension of the public comment period for the Hawaiʻi County General Plan Comprehensive Review & Update.
    The county announcement says, "This extension comes in response to numerous requests from community members, ensuring ample time for valuable feedback and the release of the policy rationale document now available on the General Plan website: https://cohplanning.konveio.com/gp-draft.
    "The General Plan, a vital document shaping the future of Hawaiʻi County for the next 25 years, plays a pivotal role in addressing community challenges, harnessing opportunities, and creating a shared vision. It covers a broad spectrum of crucial topics, including active living, climate change, quality jobs, housing choice and affordability, local economy, and traffic."
Submitting public comments on Hawai'i County General
 Plan have been extended until April 1.
See https://cohplanning.konveio.com/gp-draft
   Zendo Kern, Director of County of Hawai'i Planning Department, said, "We extend our gratitude to all the communities, stakeholders, County and State agencies, Community Development Plan Action Committees, and the Hawaiʻi County Council, who have actively engaged in the extensive public outreach process and provided the thousands of comments already received."
    Mayor Mitch Roth said, "The General Plan is more than just a document; it is a living roadmap for the direction of our County and our communities. This is why it is so important to give all on our island who wish to contribute their manaʻo ample opportunity to do so. We are working on forging a sustainable Hawaiʻi Island where our keiki can raise their keiki for generations, and we cannot do that without a plan that is as vibrant and diverse as the communities we serve."
    The County reports that following the conclusion of the extended public comment period, planners will evaluate and incorporate the feedback received into a final recommended draft, marking the beginning of the adoption process. The final recommended draft will be forwarded to the Windward and Leeward Planning Commissions for separate hearings. "All community members are welcome and encouraged to participate in the process, offering their valuable testimonies during the hearings. The County Council is responsible for the final review and adoption and will also provide an opportunity for public testimony."
    To stay informed about upcoming events, progress, and the overall process, interested individuals can sign up for the Department's eNews at www.planning.hawaiicounty.gov/general-plan-community-planning/gp/connect.
   For more information, contact County of Hawaiʻi Planning Department at 101 Pauahi Street, Suite 3, Hilo, HI 96720; (808) 961-8288 and GeneralPlan@hawaiicounty.gov.