ClearCom Not So Clear

Communication company comes up short on promises.

By Brandon Roberts

After assuring the community that no Molokai water would be used, ClearCom consumed up to 44,000 gallons of Homesteader’s drinking water everyday of drilling to make a special mixture of mud to push the undersea drill.

“They (CC) are infringing upon my Native Hawaiian rights to water,” Molokai homesteader Wade Lee, said.

“We could have done this better in hindsight,” admitted Healii Kihune, ClearCom Project Manager to Lee.

The community meeting was held three days before the drilling was to be completed, at which time the water had already been drawn from Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) supplies. Meeting attendees said that the community had been taken advantage of.

“The opportunity you leave me, if we do not solve this tonight, is civil disobedience,” said Lee who threatened Wade Lee lets ClearCom know

how he feels

to shut the valves on the company’s water supply.

Kihune told Lee “We do not want civil disobedience, but the drilling is done so this is a moot point.”

Maui County denied ClearCom a permit to use the county’s water. However, the company was given permission to use DHHL drinking water by George Maioho, DHHL Molokai District Supervisor.

ClearCom ran drilling operations for 16-20 days, and used up to 44,000 gallons of homesteaders’ water daily. Kihune said the company had instructed its contractors to have “no direct impact or infringement on community with regards to using their water.”

But community members felt otherwise. “The things we discussed did not happen,” said Noelani Lee, Ka Honua Momona (KHM) Executive Director. “KHM supported ClearCom on good faith and what we thought to be true is turning out to be untrue.”

KHM is the steward of Ali’i Fishpond, the site chosen as the landing point for the undersea fiber optic line. The permit to use this site was obtained in 2004. In previous meetings KHM requested specifically that no water was to come from Molokai.

“We asked for these promises in writing,” Lee continued. Her demands were echoed throughout Tuesday’s meeting by other concerned citizens.

ClearCom concluded drilling operations on Jan. 18, three days after the meeting. A permit extension was filed to use additional water needed to conclude the drilling phase. However, addressing community concerns, ClearCom purportedly used DHHL agricultural water rather than drinking water.

“After the fact is too late. It has permanently affected us here,” said a concerned community member voicing frustrations.

At the community meeting ClearCom representatives confirmed that a promise to landscape the construction site at Ali`i Pond would be honored. The landscaping plan presented by Noelani Lee on the night of the meeting showed that the area would be reclaimed and restored with irrigation system, kukui trees and other native plants.

The fiber optic line being installed by ClearCom was financed with Federal dollars. The terrestrial portion, estimated at over $160 million, was financed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Federal Communications Commission granted another $400 million to the project. This money came from a Universal Service Fund which is a mandatory tax that all phone subscribers, including Molokai residents, pay on a monthly bill.

There are currently 5,400 Homestead lots leased to Native Hawaiians. With over $500 million in Federal funds, the fiber optic network costs approximately $100,000 for every connected homestead lot.


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