Undersea Cable Moving Forward

Contractor to prepare EIS announced.

The state’s goal of laying an interisland undersea cable to carry energy from Molokai and Lanai to Oahu took a big step forward last week with the announcement that a California contractor will soon begin an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project.

State officials announced Thursday that the EIS will be prepared by Los Angeles-based AECOM Technology Corp. The EIS will study the route, potential environmental impacts and alternatives to the cable.

The EIS will cost $2.9 million, paid for with federal stimulus funds.

“The wind that we have here in Hawaii, and actually the wind that the people of Molokai and the people of Lanai have, is some of the best wind in the world,” said Josh Strickler, the state’s renewable energy facilitator, via KHON2.

The cable would supply about 12 percent of power on Oahu from proposed 400 megawatt wind projects on neighbor islands.  

“By providing a statewide electrical grid and a way to move renewable energy from where it is abundantly available to where it is needed, the interisland cable will help our state achieve a clean energy future,” said Ted Peck, administrator of the Hawaii State Energy Office, in a press release.

The EIS process will examine impacts on cultural resources; historic and archeological resources; coastal aquatic ecology; endangered, threatened and protected species; coral reef ecology; wildlife and fisheries biology; water quality; ecological and human health; visual impacts; and preferred routing alternatives. The EIS will also include public participation and input through outreach on affected islands. 

“The state is very excited to begin work on the EIS for the undersea interisland cable,” Lt. Gov.James “Duke” Aiona said in a press release. “We encourage all of our residents to be a part of the public involvement process, which will help shape a clean energy future for our state.”

The undersea cable would likely run from Kaneohe on Oahu to Ilio Point on Molokai, according to the Ocean Floor Survey Final Report. That report was conducted last year by the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and the University of Hawaii Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology.

From Ilio Point, the cable would run parallel to the west Molokai shore, where it would stay below the reef edge. The cable would then run from the southwestern Molokai shore toward Lanai. Alternatives routes have also been established and will be further explored during the EIS process.

The routes avoid bottom fish refuge areas but cannot avoid some segments within the Humpback Whale Sanctuary. Many questions remain unanswered, such as whether to connect cables to the shore under, over or around coral reefs, and how to lay cables around deep-water obstacles.

In 2008, the state committed to become less dependant on fossil fuels and increase use of clean and renewable energy sources. The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, an agreement signed by the state and the U.S. Department of Energy, commits to a goal of 70 percent clean energy by 2030. Currently, Hawaii has the highest oil dependency of any other state with $6 billion annually is spent on imported oil.

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