Time to Speak Up
Molokai deserves substantial compensation for powering Oahu.
Opinion by Molokai residents (listed at bottom)
Now that the state has announced its plan to run a power cable from Oahu to Molokai, it is clear that windmills are coming to our island. The big question for all of us is: “Who will benefit from this multi-billion dollar project?” The people who signed this letter believe that Molokai and its people must benefit for providing up to one third of Honolulu’s energy needs, and also for providing lands that will earn huge profits for wind farm developers. That compensation must be substantial. And it must provide long-term benefits for generations to come. In exchange for powering Oahu, we want our community to own all of the lands now held by Molokai Ranch.
Since 2006, the First Wind company has been exploring the possibility of building a wind farm on Molokai. From the beginning, this company recognized that Molokai needed to benefit from any windmills constructed on our island. First Wind pledged $50 million to help the community to purchase the entire Ranch. They also promised that if they succeeded in putting up a wind farm, they would pay millions to rent the land that they needed from the community. The rent money could have been used to create good jobs for local people on projects like reforestation, renovating the Kaluakoi Hotel, and fixing the Ranch’s broken water system.
First Wind also made its own attempts to purchase the entire Ranch and turn it over to the community. Unfortunately, when the Ranch’s foreign owners (Hong Kong’s Guoco Group) realized that there was money to be made on a wind farm, they refused to sell. And so last week, First Wind announced that it was going to have to make a deal with Molokai Ranch to put the wind farm on Ranch lands.
A deal between First Wind and the Ranch will benefit the Ranch and its foreign owners, but it won’t benefit our community. The Ranch will continue to own a huge piece of Molokai. The money from First Wind will help to fund the Ranch’s new development schemes. (Read Jim Berg’s April 27 newsletter for a preview of the Ranch’s new plans, which include the windmills, a marina at Hale O Lono and two new hotels.)
Some may wonder whether it is too much to ask for ownership of Molokai Ranch in exchange for providing power to Oahu. We don’t think so. The government will put billions of dollars into the undersea cable. Wind farm investors will earn billions of dollars from a Molokai wind farm. And Hawaiian Electric will charge its customers billions of dollars, over the years, to use the power that Molokai generates. Giving our community the right to take care of Molokai Ranch lands is actually a small price to pay in comparison to the money that will be spent developing the project, and the profits that others will make from our island.
The idea of Molokai people owning Molokai Ranch is not new. In 1998, the Molokai community came together to create a strategic plan. Hundreds of people from all walks of life participated in this process, and the plan that they made won a huge federal prize: Molokai became one of only 20 rural communities nationwide to be awarded an Enterprise Community (EC) designation. The top project in the 1998 EC strategic plan was to purchase Molokai Ranch and to put it in trust for our own community to manage locally. This project climbed to the top of the list after it became clear to everyone involved in the EC planning process that the Ranch’s own plans were in direct conflict with the community’s plans. And twelve years after the EC plan was first made, it is clear that this concern was well-founded.
When the Ranch didn’t get what it wanted at La`au, it shut down its operations, fired 120 employees, cut down coconut trees, abandoned its tourist “camps,” and stopped making any repairs to its facilities. Then, after threatening to cut off water and sewer services to all of its properties, the Ranch applied for a water utility rate increase. Last week the PUC granted the Ranch a temporary new rate that is one of the highest in the nation.
Today, twelve years after Molokai first won its EC designation, the damage that a foreign absentee landowner can do to a local community is crystal clear to all of us. And if a deal is made for Molokai Ranch to earn profits from windmills, they will have new resources to do even more damage to our island.
We do not oppose windmills as an alternative to oil for energy. But we absolutely oppose any deal between Molokai Ranch and First Wind.
Molokai is the last Hawaiian island. The assets that we have worked so hard to save are lost forever on other islands, including Oahu, the island that is now asking Molokai to satisfy its ever-growing demands for energy. If Molokai Ranch begins earning new revenue from windmills so that it can fund its development plans, then we can all say aloha `oe to the last Hawaiian island. All of the blood, sweat and tears that went into protecting this special place will have been wasted.
As payment for the use of our island to provide power to Honolulu, we humbly ask for the return of foreign-owned Molokai Ranch lands to those of us who live here. We love this island. And we will take good care of it for the sake of our children, our grandchildren and generations to come.
Kapahu & Sunni Chow
Mary & Francis Chow
BJ & Harris Dudoit
Patricia & Chris Hammond
James & Cookie Kaopuiki
Toochie & Philip Kalipi
Ron Kimball Milton & Linda Place
Wayde & Adelle Lee
Fred & Kelly Richardson
Teva & Destiny Robins
Walter & Loretta Ritte