Landfill proposal blasted
By Diana Leone
LIHU'E, Kaua'i — A proposal to put Kaua'i's next landfill in the middle of the state's largest coffee plantation has plenty of people asking Mayor Bernard Carvalho, "Why?"
Kaua'i Coffee Co. and residents of nearby Kalaheo and 'Ele'ele have been loudly objecting to the site since Carvalho announced in August that a study committee had picked it as the best of seven options.
But others on the Garden Island also have questioned the wisdom of uprooting money-making, 20-year-old coffee trees from land that the state designated "Important Agricultural Land" just this year.
"Let's not ruin a unique coffee plantation which brings money and jobs to Kaua'i," Dr. Robert S. Weiner wrote in his comment on the proposed location.
Carvalho insists that he will take into consideration new input from well-attended public meetings before announcing next June whether he'll push forward with the site chosen by his Mayor's Advisory Committee on Landfill Site Selection.
Carvalho calls the 15-member panel's recommendation "the first step" toward meeting his campaign promise to find a location for Kaua'i's next landfill in his first term as mayor.
As Carvalho said in his prepared speech for the public meetings, "We have no choice but to select and develop a site for a new landfill very, very soon."
That's because the existing Kekaha Landfill — which already has been expanded twice — is now expected to be full by 2017. And the process to buy land, design, build and permit a new landfill will take seven years.
Despite the backlash and questions about the Kaua'i Coffee site, Carvalho said some constituents have praised him for at least doing something.
"We disagree with where you're at (on location) but we agree with you that at least you are going to move," he said.
The advisory committee, which included people from all areas of the island, completed its work in April.
The committee started with a list of eight potential landfill sites that county consultants created in 2001 and 2002. It did remove one site in Kealia, which has since been developed as a subdivision.
The potential sites were arrived at by excluding all Kaua'i land that cannot be used for a landfill for various reasons under state and federal rules, including sites that are too steep; too close to the ocean, airport, streams, lakes, parks or recreation areas; or within a flood plain or conservation zone.
Through nine meetings, the citizen's committee listed 26 criteria and ranked sites by importance to the community. The committee called its process "double blind" because it did not reveal its criteria to county consultant R.M. Towill.
In the end, the "weighted" and "raw" scores both pointed to the "Umi" site on Kaua'i Coffee land as the best contender. There is an eight-point difference in scores between Umi and the next site, Kekaha Mauka.
Some observers have questioned whether the methodology the committee used is a good way to rank sites to replace the existing landfill. The rankings, for instance, don't consider the social and economic impact of taking away part of an existing business, said Kaua'i Coffee President Wayne Katayama and others.
Kaua'i Coffee pays $4.5 million annually in wages and benefits for 70 permanent workers and up to 100 seasonal employees.
The company also buys about $5 million in services from the Kaua'i and state economies, according to information from the company, which is a subsidiary of Alexander & Baldwin.
Up to 600 people visit Kaua'i Coffee's visitor center daily to taste its gourmet coffees, which are all grown on its 3,400-acre estate, formerly part of McBryde Sugar Plantation. Those marketed under the Kaua'i Coffee brand are roasted on site, too.
"Nobody wants a landfill in their backyard," Carvalho told The Advertiser. "I'm not going to dispute the work of the committee. I applaud them for their work."
But Kaua'i Coffee will fight the county's efforts to put a landfill on its property, Katayama said, which will only increase the costs for the project.
"We've laid out our position quite clearly and consistently," Katayama said. "I wish the hot topic would be on our cup of coffee."
Landowners for other sites being considered are Gay & Robinson for the Pu'u O Papai site; the state of Hawai'i for a Kekaha Makai site and one north of Hanama'ulu at Ma'alo; and Grove Farm for its Koloa, Kipu and Kalepa sites.
All of the land is zoned for agriculture. But the exact current uses were not readily available last week from the county or landowners.
None of the landowners has been willing to have a landfill on their property, Carvalho said.
He said many Kaua'i residents are talking about options to reduce the amount of waste going into the existing landfill, including more recycling or reuse of items, including composting of green and food wastes.
The county also has not ruled out a Kaua'i-sized, waste-to-energy plant or even shipping garbage to Honolulu when it completes an expansion of its H-Power plant, Carvalho said.
Kaua'i County diverts 26 percent of its garbage from the landfill, said Allison Fraley, the county's solid waste program coordinator. Kaua'i did not meet the state's goal for all counties to divert 50 percent of their garbage by 2000 and is now aiming for a 37 percent rate by 2015, Fraley said.
The county has a 3,000-home pilot curbside recycling project scheduled for June, Carvalho said, but there's still a need for a new landfill.