HONOLULU – The Dept. of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is now seeking comments from the public on a draft habitat conservation plan (HCP) for the Kaheawa Pastures wind energy generation facility proposed on Maui.

The facility, which is being proposed by Kaheawa Wind Power, LLC, will consist of 20 General Electric wind turbines each designed to generate 1.5 megawatts of energy for a total output of 30 megawatts. The project hopes to save approximately 200,000 barrels of oil annually, reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide normally associated with the burning of oil for energy production.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the habitat conservation plan for public review at their June 24, 2005 meeting.

A public hearing on the plan will be held from 7-9 p.m., on Wednesday, August 10, 2005, at the Velma “McWayne” Santos Community Center in Wailuku.

Written comments must be received by September 6, 2005, and should be submitted to “Conservation Initiatives Coordinator, DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, 1151 Punchbowl Street, Rm. 325, Honolulu, HI 96813.”

“This plan implements one of the most extensive efforts to reduce impacts to endangered species in the state, and the research conducted will help our department in its efforts to recover these species in other areas as well,” said Peter Young, Chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The purpose of the habitat conservation plan (HCP) is to mitigate for impacts that construction and operation of the facility may have to four threatened or endangered species: Hawaiian Petrel (‘Ua’u), Newell’s Shearwater (‘A’o), Hawaiian Goose (Nene), and Hawaiian Hoary Bat (‘Ope’ape’a).

These species are known to be in the vicinity and could be injured or killed if they collide with one of the 20 wind turbines to be constructed on the site.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been working with DLNR and the applicant, Kaheawa Wind Power, LLC, to develop the HCP and will also be soliciting public comments during their review process, but the August 10 public hearing will be the only opportunity for the public to provide comments in person.

“This project promises to alleviate some of Hawaii’s dependency on oil for electricity while also considering the welfare of endangered and threatened species,” said Patrick Leonard, field supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office.

“The HCP is a valuable tool that allows us to work closely with the private sector to reach a mutual resolution while maintaining respective goals and encouraging a long-term conservation ethic,” Leonard said.

Kaheawa Wind Power has included measures to minimize impacts, and while impacts may or may not occur, the mitigation to be provided under the HCP is based on the assumption that some individuals of each species could be harmed or killed over the 20-year term of the HCP.

In order to mitigate for the anticipated impacts to Hawaiian Petrel and Newell’s Shearwater, Kaheawa Wind Power will be conducting surveys for nesting colonies in West Maui, estimating numbers and distribution, identifying management needs, and where possible, implementing beneficial management measures.

If opportunities for colony protection/management on West Maui are not identified or are insufficient to mitigate for the actual impacts to these two species, management opportunities will be identified and implemented either in other areas of Maui or on other islands.

To mitigate for anticipated impacts to nene, Kaheawa Wind Power will fund the construction of a nene release pen, the production of nene goslings to release into the pen, and the operation and maintenance costs of the pen for a 5-year period.

In the unlikely situation where the actual impacts to nene are not sufficiently mitigated by the release pen, funds to construct, operate and maintain a second pen will also be provided.

While surveys conducted on the project site have not detected the presence of Hawaiian hoary bats, because they are known to occur in the vicinity, Kaheawa Wind Power will provide $20,000 to the Hawaiian Bat Research Cooperative to expand their research on the habitat requirements of the species.

Additional funds will be provided to either fund additional research or implement management actions indicated by the research findings if the actual take exceeds the anticipated level.

The habitat conservation plan may be reviewed at the Wailuku, Lahaina and Kihei Libraries on Maui, the main State Library in Honolulu, and the DLNR-Forestry office in Wailuku.

It is also available for review on the internet at http://www.state.hi.us/dlnr/dofaw/pubs/index.html

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