Waimea Valley on a Sunday

So today marked the first of a series of field trips in Dean Antolini’s Environmental Law class.  I actually have the desire to go on all of the trips (today is Waimea Valley, next month Kaena Point and a trip to Hakalau on the Big Island, and November a “Reef to Ridges” hike guided by Dean A.  

The first thing you need to know is a little bit about Dean (Denise) Antolini’s resume:  she helped to found and serves on the boards of two prominent North Shore non-profits: the North Shore Community Land Trust and Mālama Pūpūkea-Waimea.  She volunteers tirelessly, it seems, to help preserve Hawaiian lands and its native species.  She also has served on the nominating committee for the State Water Commission, was the inaugural chair of the Honolulu City Council’s Clean Water and Natural Lands Commission and is past chair of the State Environmental Council. (http://www.hawaii.edu/news/article.php?aId=6145)  So, in short order, she is a very passionate advocate for the ʻaina.

We met up at at the Waimea Valley botanical office - somewhere I have not been before, signed waivers, and got an orientation from Ryan.  The botanical garden has thousands of types of plants, in many gardens, and the staff has a greenhouse where they are working to (I guess) incubate and grow native Hawaiian plants that are close to extinction, thanks to the insertion of non-native plants, extensive deforestation, and production of sugar cane and pineapple. We started with an ʻoli - E hō mai - picked up our tools, and started the hike up.  On the way up, invasive plant species were pointed out to us (strawberry guava, albizia, and ungulates are examples), and we learned about the destructiveness of the wild boars.  When we reached the summit of our hike, we got to see some of the revegetation efforts led by former environmental law students, boy scouts, and other volunteers.  Impressive to see that they brought the water collectors up the ridge manually.  You would have to climb it to understand why it is so impressive.  As part of an erosion recovery effort, we planted two native species - ʻAhaʻawa and ʻUlei.  Let me just say it was sunny and HOT!  Iʻm glad I wore the big floppy hat and UV protectant clothing.

After planting and watering, we had a discussion about the wind turbines constructed in the Waimea Valley by First Wind LLC.  The Valley itself is considered sacred - “Valley of the Kings” is certainly supportive of that.  It has three heiau in the ahupuaʻa (to be discussed at a later date), and is home to a large number of endangered species - both plant and animal. How did the turbine march start?  Hawaiian law mandated that 70% of the stateʻs energy must come from renewable sources by 2030.  Kamehameha Schools leased the property to First Wind, as part of the master plan for the north shore of Oʻahu.  Wind power is a double edged sword - while you have a “cleaner” source of energy (which is not benefitting the residents of the north shore, but the city of Waikiki), you still have problems.  Birds (and bats) are killed, noise pollution, and the decline of property value because of the destruction of views.  Make no doubt about it, wind turbines are very visible, and can be very visually destructive, just look at the picture to the below right.

I donʻt want to get into a discussion about environmental assessments (EA) and environmental impact statements (EIS) right now, but just assume that Gordon Gecko managed to get away with not having to do one about the impact on the north shore, right under the residentsʻ noses. Because it was a private operation on private property, once the deal was signed it seemed like there was no remedy to the decision legally.  Except for the construction of a communication relay station to support the turbines built on state land on Mount Kaʻala.  Cue the dun dun dun.  A detailed EIS was needed because of this - and an accurate call out of the “takings” of endangered Hawaiian bats, attracted to the turbines by bugs lured in.  We donʻt quite know where the end of the story will lie, but itʻs a journey to get there.

Lunchtime was a welcome break, and I shared some newly dehydrated buffalo jerky.  It is really quite good.  Dean Antolini gave us a rousing speech about the fight to save Waimea Valley from exploitation by Mr. Wolffer (I think he owns the Long Island winery), and for the preservation of the Valley itself.  You can find more information on the “Save Waimea Valley” movement at http://www.waimeavalleycoalition.org. The Honolulu City Council approved the settlement of the Waimea Valley condemnation action on March 15, 2006, the Senate passed HB2400 on April 11, 2006, and the title to Waimea Valley passed to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.  A separate LLC now runs the financial side of Waimea Valley, and another company (direct offshoot of OHA) the title (I think).  A discussion of the history of Waimea Valley can be found at http://honoluluweekly.com/cover/2005/11/waimea-indivisible-who-will-save-the-valley/ and more information about the Valley today at http://www.waimeavalley.net.  Itʻs not completely current, but it gives you a good idea about the Valley of the Kings.

Our last stop was the greenhouse, where they are working to cultivate native plants.  Check out the last link above, you can get more information.

Such a great day.  :)