Departing from its hearing officer’s recommendations, the Board of Land and Natural Resources has voted to approve a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and Incidental Take License (ITL) for the proposed 25-megawatt Na Pua Makani wind farm in Kahuku, O`ahu, bringing to a close the contested case brought by the community group Keep the North Shore Country and Kahuku resident Elizabeth Rago in 2016.
In its May 18 Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Decision and Order, the board determined that the project was likely to take a very low number of endangered species of birds and the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat, or ōpeʻapeʻa. Research has shown that wind farms are the number one cause globally of mass mortalities of bats and Hawai`i’s facilities have largely taken far more bats than expected. However, Na Pua Makani’s developers, the state’s Endangered Species Recovery Committee (which advises the Land Board), and the board itself chose to base the facility’s expected bat take on the low level of take experienced by the existing Kahuku wind farm, which is the closest to the project site.
Similar to other wind farms in the state, Na Pua Makani plans to mitigate its take of protected species by funding forest restoration, with the assumption that enhancing their habitat will produce more animals than are killed, and supporting research aimed at improving the efficacy of mitigation efforts.
“After carefully considering the evidence during the contested case hearing, the BLNR decided to follow the recommendation of the Endangered Species Review Committee (ESRC),” the Department of Land and Natural Resources stated in a press release. The ESRC had recommended that the Land Board approve the HCP and ITL.
Hearing officer Yvonne Izu had recommended denial, in part, because she believed Na Pua Makani had failed to take adequate steps to protect the bats, in violation of the state’s endangered species act.
There are already two other wind facilities on the North Shore of the island. The release points out that with the addition of the Na Pua Makani facility, the total wind-energy contribution of Oahu’s north shore area will be 124 megawatts.
“The project should stabilize electricity rates and create new jobs. The project will spend up to $4.6 million dollars to assure there will be no negative impacts to Hawai’i’s environment and native and protected species, while an additional sum of $10,000 per wind turbine per year, a possible $2 million dollars over the life of the project, will go into a fund to benefit the Kahuku community,” the release stated.
Only five members of the seven-member board supported the HCP/ITL approval. Board member Keone Downing was the sole dissenter and member Stanley Roehrig had recused himself after inadvertently discussing the case with a state Legislator.
For Further Reading:
“Wind Farm Plan to Protect Rare Bats Is Inadequate, Hearing Officer Finds,” December 2017;
“Data Gaps Confound Efforts to Limit Harm to Bats Posed by Wind Farms,” February 2017;
“Board Talk: Wind Farm, Water Holdovers,” December 2016;
“Board Talk: Second Kahuku Wind Farm Gets Approval,” January 2014.