Community Leaders Support KIUC’s Decision to Scale Down the West Kauaʻi Energy Project

The project's Environmental Assessment did not adequately assess the harm caused by the diversion of 4 billion gallons of water a year from the Waimea River watershed


Marti Townsend, (808) 372-1314,

West Kauaʻi community groups Pō‘ai Wai Ola and Nā Ki‘ai Kai support the Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative’s decision to scale down the West Kauaʻi Energy Project to only the solar-powered pump-storage system. As previously proposed, the project would have constructed two hydro power systems — the solar pump-storage component, and an additional flow-through component diverting river water through a century-old plantation ditch system previously used for sugar cultivation. 

On behalf of Pō‘ai Wai Ola and Nā Ki‘ai Kai, Earthjustice filed suit against the Department of Land and Natural Resources in February for issuing a “finding of no significant impact” on the Environmental Assessment (EA) of the dual hydro project. The EA did not adequately assess the harm caused by the diversion of 4 billion gallons of water a year from the Waimea River watershed for 65 years, and was silent on the foreseeable consequences of discharging much of that water onto the Mānā Plain where it would collect sediment, pesticides, and other pollution on its way out into the ocean. Approving the inadequate EA was one of the last acts of the out-going department director; a decision she made during the winter holidays and without a public hearing.

In response to KIUC’s announcement yesterday, leaders of the West Kauaʻi community groups issued the following statements:

“I am relieved that KIUC is no longer pursuing the flow-thru hydro plant. It does not make sense to take 4 billion gallons of water a year for the next 65 years from a river that is already suffering from reduced flows because of climate change,” said Galen Kaʻohi, president of Pō‘ai Wai Ola. “We need to protect the water, safeguard the streams, and figure out ways to produce energy that does not harm this essential resource.”

“This was the right next step. The community supported the pump-storage proposal from the beginning. The problems started when KIUC added the flow-thru system to the project,” said John Aana, Vice President of Pō‘ai Wai Ola. “We had to sue because that EA was totally inadequate. Only an environmental impact statement would show the real problems with diverting so much stream water and releasing it on the plain and eventually into the ocean.”

“It’s about time KIUC listened to the people who live on the Westside and rely on the Waimea River every day,” said Kawai Warren of Nā Ki‘ai Kai. “I think the lesson here is the “go big or go home” approach to clean energy does not work. To be successful in combatting climate change, utilities need to work with community to steward vital resources in a way that supports clean energy and meets the needs of the communities expected to host these projects.”

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