Homesteaders Push for ‘No Build’ Status
The fight to keep wind turbines off Hawaiian homestead lands on Molokai continued on Sunday as homesteaders sought assurance from the Department of Hawaiian Home Land (DHHL) that wind farms would not be built at Mo`omomi and Anahaki in central west Molokai.
The three hour meeting turned heated on a few occasions as frustrated residents challenged DHHL staffers as to why Hawaiian homestead land would ever be considered for wind farms.
“The No. 1 thing you need to take back is that this community is angry,” said Lori Buchanan, who also sits on the Molokai Planning Commission. “We’re angry because the department is making policy without us.”
Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative calls for 70 percent clean energy use by 2030. To help achieve this goal, the state has proposed building wind farms on Molokai and Lanai to provide power to Oahu. The energy would be transported via an undersea cable.
“Did they exhaust all their options on Oahu?” a resident asked at the meeting. “What’s in it for Molokai?” pressed another. “What about the mana?” offered a third.
While wind energy company First Wind has said it cancelled plans to build on Molokai homestead lands, residents at Sunday’s meeting asked DHHL to designate Anahaki and Mo`omomi “No Build Zones.”
“The purpose and intent of Hawaiian homelands is to put people on the land — not wind turbines,” one frustrated homesteader said.
Malama Minn, a wind energy specialist with the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said from an energy-generating perspective, Mo`omomi and Anahaki are not preferred sites for wind farms.
“When we looked at it purely from a wind resource perspective, it’s not optimal,” she said, given the hilly terrain.
Minn said land owned by Molokai Properties Limited (commonly known as Molokai Ranch) on the west end that is flatter would produce more wind power. But, Minn stressed, her department does not make the final decision on wind farm location.
Attendees asked to have the “No Build” issue added to the Hawaiian Homes Commission’s next meeting agenda. Referring to sites that have already been ruled out, said Davianna McGregor, a University of Hawaii professor of Hawaiian and Pacific history, “We want the same recognition for Anahaki/Mo`omomi… so that it’s off the table.”
The state has commissioned an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to look at possible routes for the undersea cable. A draft EIS is expected in 18-24 months.
Homesteaders also expressed concern that the cable might still run through Mo`omomi. Minn said the EIS must consider “any possible alternatives” for cable locations, though initial feasibility studies did not identify Molokai’s northern coast as a top route choice.
Two of the nine commissioners from the Hawaii Homes Commission were at the meeting, but only to listen.
“We’re not here to make a decision today but to hear your side,” said Donald Chang, commissioner for Oahu.
After the meeting, Helm, a member of the residents’ group Aloha Aina Mo`omomi, said he felt “cautiously optimistic” that DHHL will grant their “No Build” request.
“I think they heard us loud and clear that homesteaders support the ‘No Build’ initiative,” Helm said.