Besides the existing 12 wind turbines, eight new 568-foot wind turbines are scheduled to tower over the community of Kahuku as the wind farm contractor AES Corp. continues its plans for construction despite island-wide opposition.
The voices of community members in Kahuku have largely been disregarded, said opponents, as the State of Hawaii sees the project as necessary in order to fulfill its renewable energy future.
David Beus, an associate professor at BYU–Hawaii, said the group Ku Kia’i Kahuku needs as many people possible to stand up for what is happening in Kahuku. “What I say to students is go see what is going on and talk to the kia’i. This is something real happening in our community. You don’t want to let it pass you by. It’s a great learning opportunity.”
Protests around the island have been continuing over the past couple of months, namely in Kalealoa by the ship yard and Kahuku at the entrance of the wind farm. According to Hawaii News Now, an hours-long operation of delivering turbine parts from Kalealoa near the west side of the island to the North Shore was delayed on Oct. 17 and 18 during the start of the equipment transport, leading to the arrest of 55 people.
A utility pole was also cut down with a chainsaw on Kamehameha Highway near Turtle Bay blocking both sides of traffic and cutting power to hundreds of North Shore residents. Police reported, “The pole was intentionally brought down in an attempt to block the wind farm convoy from getting to its destination,” according to HNN.
Representatives from Ku Kia’i Kahuku said they played no part in the planning or downing of the utility pole, as their presence has been largely peaceful.
Kryssa Stevenson, a BYUH alumna who was heavily involved in the protests, said, "The first thing we tell people is we're not protesters, we're kia'i, or protectors. Protesters are the guys who tip trucks and start mayhem. We're just trying to defend our homes. We're not violent and we don't want anyone to get hurt."
Honolulu Police Department Chief of Police Susan Ballard said of the incident during a press conference, “Unlike the protestors who peacefully demonstrated, this act of vandalism was dangerous, selfish and a total disregard of public safety.”
On the night of Nov. 14, a total of 26 people were arrested in Kalaeloa for allegedly disobeying orders from police officers and remaining on the roadway, according to the Star Advertiser. “To date, more than 150 people have been arrested since protests against the project started in mid-October,” it reports.
Officials from AES said once the convoy got on the road, it was impossible for the trucks to turn around due to the size of the equipment being brought up, and law enforcement was then needed to clear the roads. Fences had been placed near the entrance of the wind farm site to separate hundreds of protestors chanting, “Too big, too close,” and other phrases from the convoy transporting oversized loads of turbine parts.
Kamalani Keliikuli, vice president of Ku Kia’i Kahuku, said of the protests in an interview with HNN, “Today is not the end. We’re still fighting. We just don’t want the turbines, and we want them to listen to us. We’re in it for the fight.”
Inez Larson, one of the protestors at the site, said in an interview with HNN, “I just keep thinking to myself, the desecration of the land is enough, and you know, I don’t want anyone watching this to be crying or upset. We have to do this. The government has forced us to do this.” Larsen said the government has neglected to listen to the people’s concerns.
Stevenson said, "Standing at Kalaeloa ... I felt proud of our community for rallying together to be heard. I was proud of the people from all over the island who turned out. We had people from our side, people from the west side, some from outer islands, and one woman who joked she didn't even know where she was.
"I felt proud that so many of us were there and that we all understood the importance of the issue. In spite of AES trying so hard to silence us, I was proud to see that we will not go quietly into the night."
Despite opposition, AES has stated that it has gone through all of the necessary guidelines and procedures to validate the project.
AES Chief Operating Officer Mark Miller said, “We feel comfortable with the work that we’ve done with the comprehensive studies that we’ve done to ensure that we are building a project that is safe, secure, and is going to ultimately benefit the state and its long-term energy goals.”
Those protesting the turbines said everyone is for clean energy, but no one wants it in their backyard. They said the avid supporters of the project live on the other side of the island and they don’t see the day-to-day impacts of the turbines.
Jamaisha Farley, a local resident involved in the protests, said, “Being on the front line was one of the most humbling experiences I have ever experienced, just knowing that you are fighting for something that means so much to you and your culture.
“If we have to do it again, we will. Standing up for what we believe in is actually more important than what these big companies have to offer us.”
Farley said those in the government should think about if it were their families living directly in front of the turbines. She said it would sway their decision and give them more of an understanding. “All we can do is peacefully protest for now,” she said.
For many in Kahuku, the wind turbines are seen as a blemish on the community and a health risk for its residents. Kiana Lei Phillip, a local resident, said the overall goal of the protests is to protect the families, both the keikis and the kapunas. Phillip said she attended the protests for her 2-year-old daughter, and she said the project will affect her future and people in the community.
Stevenson said, "We never wanted these in the first place! Personally, that's why I'm willing to stand with the kia'i until 4 in the morning, because we shouldn't have to be the butt end of someone's business transaction. It's not fair that AES can just build these monsters in our backyards, rake in all the money from them, and leave us to live with the eyesore and all the side effects."
The wind farm in Kahuku, according to change.org, poses a threat to the Hawaiian hoary bat and other endangered species, will affect learning and sleeping due to the noise pollution and proximity to schools, and will destroy the country landscape and lead to an “estimated 10 to 25 percent reduction of Kahuku property values.” Given the negative impacts on the community, the project continues on and officials have said they plan to carry it through to completion.
Stevenson said what's happening in Kahuku is a mirror image of other events happening on the islands. "It's like Mauna Kea all over again, only these guys can't afford to be pushed back because then they won't meet their tax deductible for the year. Hawaii has a long history of evil corporations putting profit over the people, and that's something that goes back to when Queen Liliuokalani was dethroned for the sake of making money off of the sugar plantations.
"Not only that, but I think Mauna Kea taught the world that Kapu Aloha works; that when people rally together and stand strong they can win. AES and the state government saw that just like we did, so now they want to crack down and keep us from getting that level of support that we've seen on the Mauna."
According to the Star Advertiser, an official from AES has stated that the delivery of all of the wind turbines was completed ahead of schedule, and the additional turbines are set to be operational by Summer 2020.
Stevenson said there are several ways people can get involved to become informed and raise awareness about the effects of Na Pua Makani. "We need more people studying energy justice, sending letters, contacting trustworthy media officials to cover the situation.
"In addition to the convoy nights where we rally to slow down AES, there are information sessions where people can learn about the history of this issue and the damage it's brought to the community. There are times when they announce mass email sessions where they need people to write certain individuals/companies overseeing the project.
"It's sad to say that the fake news coverage we've been getting make the kia'i look like warmongering, uneducated locals trying to stir up trouble. We need more people to show the world what's really happening over here and why it's so important."