Kauai dairy controversy heading to courts

Kauai dairy controversy heading to courts
Published: Mar. 12, 2015 at 11:02 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 13, 2015 at 7:43 PM HST
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LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - The controversy over billionaire Pierre Omidyar's plans for a dairy on Kauai appears to be headed for the courts.

The Friends of Mahaulepu, which represents a number of South Shore residents, issued a notice of intent to sue the dairy over potential violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

"We think it is the worst place to put (a dairy) on this island," said Bridget Hammerquist, the group's president.

"Two thousand cows going potty in that valley is equivalent to nearly 400,000 people going potty in the valley every day."

But Hawaii Dairy Farms said the threatened lawsuit is without merit and that it is seeking the proper federal permits.

"Hawaii Dairy Farms believes this intent to file suit ... serves only to feed the inflammatory rhetoric of the Friends of Mahaulepu," the company said.

Hawaii Dairy, which is owned by eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar's Ulupono Initiative, is in the midst of plans for a 699-cow dairy. It hopes to someday expand that to 2,000 cows.

Friends, which is represented by Charles Tebbutt of Oregon, said Hawaii Dairy is proceeding without a proper National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

An NPDES permit is required of major industrial developments that disturb 1 or more acres.

They said Mahaulepu's environment is already overtaxed.

Recent tests by the Surfrider Foundation and the state of Hawaii have found high bacterial levels at Mahaulepu Beach and the nearby Waiopili Stream.

State health officials aren't sure what's causing the pollution but have suggested it could be human waste from hikers going to the nearby Makauwahi cave.

"What we found amazed us ... the bacterial counts in the water were astronomical," said Carl Berg of the Surfrider Foundation's Kauai chapter.

Added Hammerquist: "It's threatening the aquifer and the ground waters and county drinking waters -- all of the drinking water in the entire Poipu coastline."

Ulupono said claims of environmental harm are unfounded and said it currently conducting an environmental impact study of the dairy. It also took issue with the hiring of a mainland attorney.

"This represents yet another assault on agriculture and the rights of farmers using mainland counsel in an attempt to bully local farmers and ranchers," The company said.

"Hawaii's people deserve to see the results of the technical studies before making any judgments.

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