KAHUKU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Opponents of a planned wind farm who camped out along Kamehameha Highway overnight in a bid to stop construction equipment from getting to the North Shore say they’ll return Monday night ― and won’t give up their pledge to stop the project.
“We’re ready to be here as long as we have to,” Kananiloaanuenue Ponciano, president of the group Ku Kia’i Kahuku, told Hawaii News Now. “If we have to come back tomorrow, the next day, two months from now, it doesn’t matter. We’ve got a camp set up. We’re here for the long haul.”
Critics of the AES Na Pua Makani wind farm slated for Kahuku started gathering Sunday night, when the company had hoped to start sending heavy equipment and wind turbine parts to the construction site. As the protest grew, AES Corp. decided to push the planned transport of parts back.
“With any project, you’re going to have some that are for it and some that are against it. It’s the nature of the type of work that we do and the type of project that we build,” said Mark Miller, the chief operating officer of AES Corp.
“Last night was our first look at doing that move of major pieces of equipment. When we considered a multitude of issues we were looking at in real time we decided to pull back."
Dozens of opponents had gathered along Kamehameha Highway hours before the scheduled transport. Some were sitting in chairs that had been taped and chained together on a side road leading up to the site where AES Corporation plans to build eight new wind turbines.
“Our stand is just to stop the turbines and to make our voices heard for once. We’ve been fighting this fight for 10 years. From the very beginning, we’ve tried to stop the turbines. No one wanted to listen,” said Kamalani Keliikuli, vice president of Ku Kiai Kahuku.
Critics were also seen gathering outside the Kalaeloa facility where the turbine towers and blades are currently stored.
Honolulu police were also at the site.
Demonstrators in Kalaeloa left the area around 1:45 a.m. Monday, following the departure of HPD crews. A small group remained in Kahuku as of 7:30 a.m. Monday, however.
No arrests were reported at either location.
The company had planned to move massive parts for the turbines, which will each be 568 feet tall, Sunday through Thursday nights between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
The project has been several years in the making, and already has obtained the necessary permits and cleared regulatory hurdles.
But there’s a pending court appeal, and opponents also have several concerns, including the impact the turbines may have on the Kahuku community and on wildlife, such as the Hawaiian hoary bat.
“We are not here to protest green energy. We want green energy. We’re just here to say we don’t need anymore monstrosities in our backyard,” said project opponent Malia Alatasi.
But AES Corp. says it’s jumped through all the necessary hoops to move forward with the project.
“We feel comfortable with the work that we’ve done with the comprehensive studies that we’ve done to ensure that we are building a project that is safe, secure, and is going to ultimately benefit the state and its long-term energy goals," Miller said.
Authorities have warned that drivers in Waialua, Haleiwa, Kahuku and Laie could face traffic delays over the next six weeks as the company moves equipment to Kahuku.
Plans call for Kamehameha Highway to be closed at Waimea Bay between midnight and 2 a.m., and between Pupukea Road and Sunset Beach Road from 1 to 2:30 a.m.
The highway will also be blocked between Sunset Beach and Kawela Beach roads from 1 to 2:30 a.m.