Tuesday, January 23, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Residents sue over power lines

By William Cole
Advertiser Courts Writer

Several resident groups from around Manoa and Palolo valleys filed suit yesterday, challenging an environmental impact statement related to a long-proposed 138,000-volt transmission line along Waahila Ridge.

The impact statement accepted by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources is "wholly deficient and inadequate" because it fails to consider alternatives and all environmental consequences, the lawsuit filed in Circuit Court states.

The DLNR and Hawaiian Electric Co. are named in the legal action, which seeks a court declaration of the impact statement as inadequate and injunctive relief halting further planning of the 3.8-mile stretch of high-voltage line.

"Some viable alternatives were not properly evaluated because HECO said they were too expensive," said Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land, a resident group. HECO was asked to consider commercial-grade solar panels or energy-producing hydrogen-based fuel cells like those used by the Department of Water Supply in Los Angeles, Curtis said.

Although he said he had not seen the lawsuit, Chuck Freedman, vice president for corporate relations for HECO, yesterday called the study "probably the most thorough environmental impact statement ever conducted in the state of Hawaii. We provide detailed information on the alternatives," he said.

Members of Life of the Land are residents of Manoa and Palolo valleys. The organization brought the suit along with the Outdoor Circle, another resident group and Ilio Ulaokalani Coalition Inc., described in court papers as Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners. Palolo Valley resident Karla Kral also is listed as a plaintiff.

Some community groups urged HECO to place the 3.8 miles of line underground, saying new poles up to 120 feet tall along Waahila Ridge would destroy a scenic vista.

But in filing a revised environmental impact statement in October 1999, HECO maintained that replacing 20 steel poles with larger versions and stringing 2.3 miles of line above ground strikes a balance between customer needs and environmental concerns.

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