KIUC Wailua Dam Plans

SUBHEAD: Small scale slowing the flow of water is a virtue. Large scale hydroelectric dams on Kauai are abominations.  

By Juan Wilson on 17 January 2011 for Island Breath- 

Image above: Damming a rocky stream as example of rain harvesting. From (

According to the philosophy of permaculture, slowing the flow of water over the land is a virtuous thing to do. That would include gathering rainwater off the roof as well as creating berms along the contours of the land and adding ponds on swift flowing streams with small dams (think beavers). The idea is that these efforts should increase biomass (life) and diversity as well as reducing erosion and soil runoff. Needless to say, any such attempts at slowing water on your own property should follow studying techniques and examples that pertain.

Certainly, modifying a stream should only be done in consultation with the affected community of that stream. Getting the advice of experienced permaculture practitioners goes without saying. One of the easiest achievable water slowing permaculture efforts the individual home owner can accomplish is to collect and store rainwater from the roof. This should be done off a tile or metal roof if the water is to be for drinking or food preparation.

My grandmother used to use a 50 gallon ceramic cistern at the corner of her home fed by the rain gutter downspout. She used the water for her laundry tub. Historically on Kauai there was been a tremendous loss of soil (and waste/contamination of water) as a result of the sugarcane industry. Today GMO corn has replaced sugarcane, and the erosion and contamination continues. If permaculture techniques of slowing water were brought to bear on Kauai agland this island would be transformed. Food security could be achieved, erosion reduced, soil rebuilding begun, and reforestation of wastelands possible. That is not what KIUC's plans to do with its hydroelectric studies.

Their plan is to continue an affordable American Dream of suburban consumption. The scale and activity of their hydroelectric dreams are unaffordable and will have only damaging affect on the ecosystem of their locale. KIUC's business partner, Free Flow Power Corporation, of Gloucester, Massachusetts, is seeking a permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to explore siting hydroelecric dams on Kauai. After reading Judy Daltons email and Andy Parx article (reproduced in part below) revealing that the Wailua River was a targeted site I wrote FERC the following;
Do not permit Free Flow Power a preliminary permit application for the Wailua Power Project for Kauai Island Utility Co-op (KIUC). We do not need another hydro-power plant on Kauai. As it came into being (2002) KIUC agreed to pay Citizens Communication Co. $215 million for the assets of Kauai Electric. That was the first mistake. A ridiculous price that burdened the "Co-Op from day one with a debt that will never be paid off.
They have locked us into into a debt obligation that assumed and relied on continued economic growth for decades into the future. The bursting housing bubble, peak oil and peak food ended that dream. Now KIUC thrashes to find a gimmick to keep up with that old General Electric motto "Progress is our most important product." Nonsense!
We need our power utility co-op to help finance residential (and small business) solar PV projects. KIUC has squandered members money and avoided facing the reality of the future. Their perception of progress is to continue on a "business as usual" consumption model that will inevitably lead to greater damage to the Kauai's ecosystem and continue to fail to serve its members.
KIUC have had several bad business ideas. One was to grow sugarcane as fuel. KIUC is oblivious to the reality that we need to grow our own food more than we need to grow biofuel for electric power generation. KIUC is an abysmal failure as a cooperative power utility with no insight or planning that will alleviate the pain we on Kauai will experience in the next year or two as oil prices again reach the levels of the summer 2008. The real solutions here are rather simple.
1) Promote demand destruction (50% reduction for starters).
2) Enable widespread distributed generation (using solar PV and some wind)

3) Accept system resilience over reliability.

4) Implement a 5 year plan to get off diesel fuel for electricity.
The idea of damming the Wailua River to fulfill the imagined needs of pre-collapse suburban America would be laughable if it were not so tragic. Talk about bad ideas. This island is way too fragile to consider using geo-engineering projects like major dams to satisfy air-conditioning loads and our Chevy Volt recharging expectations.
Any investment in these pipe-dreams by the idiots running KIUC is a waste of our precious treasure that could be focused on those things within our grasp. And people wonder why our electricity is the most expensive in the country. The best thing that could happen to KIUC is that they go bankrupt and the county takes over their operation as a public utility. Then we could get down to the business of planning for the downsizing our the current grid and the affordable alternatives that are achievable in the real future we face.

Excerpt from Rocky Horror By Andy Parx on 13 January 2011 for PNN - (

...A press release we received today from Kaua`i Island Utilities Co-op (which apparently does not appear at their web site)- notable for the fact that it fails to mention the location of the project- says that KIUC
this week signed a memorandum of agreement with Free Flow Power Corporation, which will allow the two firms to jointly explore the development of hydroelectric energy projects on Kauai. And as if designed to double us over with laughter it announces that: KIUC's involvement will ensure that any such development will engage the community in broad discussions about appropriate technologies, locations and the wide range of environmental, cultural, economic and other concerns. “This is the first step in a lengthy public process to explore the viability of several hydroelectric projects. Our members have long recognized the hydroelectric potential on Kauai, and we feel now we have the financial resources and the proven developer to move forward,” said David Bissell, acting CEO at KIUC. “We hope to create a climate that insures an opportunity for our members to participate in an open and transparent process of evaluating hydroelectric opportunities.”
Apparently the first step in transparency is failing to mention where the projects will be located and how to present testimony if you might happen to still oppose damming Wailua River like you did the other at least three times they tried to do it. But it wasn’t like KIUC was just putting out a press release in the name of openness and good community relations. We don’t know for sure but their hand might have been forced by a widely circulated email earlier this week from Judy Dalton of the Kaua`i Sierra Club who saw the legal notice in the newspaper, did a little snooping and sent out the alarm saying that:
Wailua Falls, one of Kauai's most visited natural treasures, will be in for some changes if this permit for a dam is approved. There are more environmentally-sound options to harness hydro power. Please read and send comments to keep the river intact and the falls free-flowing. She describes the project, taken from the legal notice, writing A public notice was posted in the Garden Island (11/16/2010) with a request for a "preliminary permit" to study the feasibility of a Wailua River Hydroelectric Project. The project is to make electricity and includes: "a 503-foot-long, 23-foot-high earth-filled, roller-compacted-concrete dam creating a 35-acre reservoir with storage capacity of approximately 430 acre-feet" It also includes a 20 foot high intake structure, fish screens, a closure gate, a penstock, a powerhouse of 60 X 40 feet, channel to return water to the river, (below the falls) a switchyard with transformer, and almost 2 mile long transmission line to the Lydgate substation. No mention is made of roads and other changes that would be necessary. "The estimated annual generation of the Wailua project would be 20.7 gigawatt-hours." So what’s wrong with that? Judy writes that: Such a project will remove and reduce the water flow over the falls, create a large reservoir, cut up the land to make roads and other structures. Dams change the chemical, physical, and biological processes of river ecosystems. They alter free-flowing systems by reducing river levels, blocking the flow of nutrients, changing water temperature and oxygen levels, and impeding or preventing fish migration. Dams and reservoir are being decommissioned all over the mainland because of problems occurring which initially were unforeseen. But don’t we need renewable power and so don’t we need to dam the river to get power from it? The answer, according to Dalton is a resounding “no” saying Harnessing power from the Wailua River could be done by a "run of the stream" project far upstream with NO diversions, NO interference with the fall themselves and NO man-made reservoir. Click here to read about Run-of-the-River or Stream hydro power...


Anonymous said...

Great ideas! We need your voice heard! Please testify before the Board. Mahalo.

Anonymous said...

Anybody know who's behind this?

...Jeff Lindner

Fly on the Wall

Anonymous said...


Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) signed a deal with a Massachusetts company to explore hydroelectric possibilities.

There are two major times to intervene and/or make comments. They are steps 2 and 3.
We are now only at step 1.
(1) They need a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permit to explore possibilities.
The public could make comments, but it does not mean much

(2) If they move forward they must file for another FERC application to actually build a hydroelectric facility,
non-profit organizations can and should intervene. If FERC approves it, then ...

(3) KIUC needs to file the proposed power purchase contract with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
The public can and should intervene in that case also.



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