By Nakia Naeʻole, Koa Aloha ʻĀina – Lāʻie
ʻO Kahuku lewa, kō Kahuku inoa o ka wā kahiko. Kahuku – where the salt wind, Ahamanu, blows. A moʻolelo tells that Kahuku was once separated from Oʻahu. Maui, our deified kupuna, attached Kahuku to Oʻahu using two mythical hooks, Polou and Kalou, and pulled them together. Maui united Kahuku with the remainder of Oʻahu to maintain peace throughout the mokupuni. Now we let Aloha ʻĀina and Kapu Aloha be the two makau (fishhooks) uniting Kahuku with the entire pae ʻāina in the struggle to protect our ʻāina.
Kahuku is known for its “Red Raider” football fanaticism, for the old sugar-cane mill, and for an abundance of shrimp trucks; a simple, peaceful community. However, in late 2019, our Kiaʻi Aloha ʻĀina thrust Kahuku into the spotlight by becoming ground-zero for non-violent civil disobedience in our efforts to block the transport of of industrial wind turbine components.
Our demonstrations of civil disobedience positioned Kahuku and Koʻolauloa against the push to meet the state’s energy initiative goal of being completely independent from fossil-fuel usage by year 2045.
Although our recent efforts received lots of media attention, Kahuku’s battle against industrial wind turbines stretches back nearly a decade. Kent Fonoimoana, his sisters Maria and Cindy and his cousin Kurt, Deldrene Herron, Tevita and Liz Kaʻili, Carl Hubbell and Margaret Primacio, along with organizations like Keep the Country Country and Defend Oʻahu Coalition led the struggle against wind project coordinators West Wind Works, LLC. and Champlin Wind Energy to halt construction of the 12 industrial wind turbines in operation today. Although they were unsuccessful in halting the construction, the work of these early Koa Aloha ʻĀina provided a foundation for resisting so-called “green energy initiatives” and for advancing our environmental and health concerns. The media portrayed us as “trend followers” but our struggle is not new.
The government plans to add eight more turbines; the tallest wind turbines in America. They will be built just 1,750 feet from Kahuku High and Intermediate School. We banded together as a community to protect the health and safety of our ʻāina, and most importantly, our keiki.
And so Kū Kiaʻi Kahuku was born, the vision of nine frustrated mothers. We were always pono in our approach: we attended our community association meetings, visited the mayor’s office, engaged with elected government officials, held signs, and held educational rallies. We pleaded with the State to examine the possible health issues associated with wind turbines, and to address the inaccuracies in AES Corporation’s (the wind turbine contractor) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). We felt compelled to voice our manaʻo. However, as with the TMT issue, our voices were disregarded and the project was allowed to proceed.
We raised the possible health issues associated with wind turbines – issues such as shadow flicker, infrasound, blade throw and stray voltage. Our community repeatedly voiced our concerns, but AES denied our claims had any validity.
A court case regarding the negative impact of the existing wind turbines on the ʻÖpeʻapeʻa, or Hawaiian bat, an endangered species, gave us hope. Sadly, the fate of the ʻÖpeʻapeʻa was disregarded as the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) had already approved construction of the additional wind turbines. Out of options, we decided to “inu i ka wai ʻawaʻawa” – drink of the bitter waters and hold the line on the road.
On October 13th we committed to occupying the road created to accommodate the over-sized deliveries of turbine components to Kahuku. Unbeknownst to many, our success that evening was due to a concurrent effort to block the Grace Pacific laydown yard in Kalaeloa (Campbell Industrial Park). That was the site of the actual victory. A hui of citizens from Kahuku and Waiʻanae quietly resisted AES and HPD that first night, catching them by surprise. People like Mike and Melissa Camit, Kaukaohu Wahilani, Thomas and Hinano Tangaro, Isaac and Rachel Silva, and others led the opposition at the Kalaeloa location.
Kahuku and Waiʻanae are high school football rivals, but in that moment we saw the beauty that is created when our communities unite. I recall Auntie Pua Case saying that TMT was helping to raise a nation. Here, the State and AES hoped to only see turbines rise; instead they saw Aloha ʻĀina warriors of Kākuhihewa rise.
I joined the activity at Kalaeloa on October 17th. I felt that I was there by chance…but not by chance. That evening and the early morning of the 18th brought the first wave of arrests.
During our vigil, evenings at Kalaeloa varied. Some nights saw fewer than 30 people participating; on other evenings upwards of 500 Kiaʻi participated. The evenings when few could attend were difficult; that is when presence and fortitude to kūpaʻa (remain steadfast) was needed most. Some evenings, alakaʻi from other parts of our pae ʻāina joined us. Individuals such as Kumu Hina, Auntie Pua Case, Andre Perez, Lanakila Mangauil, Kaleikoa Kaeo, Kuike Kamakea-Ohelo, Kepa Kaeo, Kihei Nahale-a, Kalehua Krug, Auntie Leilani Kaapuni and many more showed their kākoʻo (if I failed to mention you, e huikala mai iaʻu). This broad support fueled our struggle. We were both inspired and grateful that so many Kiaʻi would come from all across our pae ʻāina to kākoʻo our efforts to Aloha ʻĀina.
Eventually our nights at Kalaeloa and Kahuku came to an end. The deliveries reached Kahuku and as of January 14th at least six of the eight new turbines have been built.
The media and the state portrayed us as inhibitors of progress and opponents of green energy, neither of which is true. We are against “Greed Energy.” Many in our community want to see a different approach to address renewable energy, one that involves impacted communities and takes their concerns into consideration; an approach that prioritizes the health and well-being of the people.
We were also erroneously blamed for several malicious attempts to halt deliveries. Let me be clear that our resistance strategy was based on Kapu Aloha; standing up peacefully for our beliefs.
More than two months after the last of the arrests, our base camp has been dismantled. Our fight has taken us back to court and into government offices. What we ask from the lāhui is to continue to be ʻeleu (alert) and akamai to the hewa that impacts our people and our ʻāina. Thankfully, officials like City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi and State Senator Kurt Fevella have been willing to work with and for us. We need to elect more leaders like these if we are to truly be represented.
We also challenge our lāhui to consciously change its habits if we are to truly win the fight for Aloha ʻĀina. Clearly Hawaiʻi should be independent from fossil fuel use, but we ʻōiwi must lead in the development of alternate methods of energy, sustainability and conservation. We also need to go without some of the luxuries of the 21st century for the betterment of our ʻāina. Imagine if, in our generation, we make the changes necessary so that endless Aloha ʻĀina Kūʻë are no longer necessary – then our keiki and moʻopuna might only know the beauty and pono of Aloha ʻĀina.
A no laila, a hiki i ke Aloha ʻĀina hope loa!
Ka Wai Ola recognizes that there are several other components of the Kahuku community that are part of the collective in opposition to the wind turbines that have been erected in their town. We have invited Nakia Naeʻole, one of the leaders of the struggle, to share his manaʻo and perspective on this issue.
At-a-glance: The Community’s Concerns
Migraines, nausea and other physiological symptoms caused by the constant audible noises and visual lights, as well as infrasound emissions from the turbines. In Canada, people who live or work in close proximity to wind turbines report symptoms including stress, sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression and cognitive dysfunction. Long-term health impacts are not known.
The closest wind turbines are within 1,700 feet of residential areas and 1,750 feet from Kahuku High and Intermediate School.
The eight new wind turbines being erected in Kahuku are the tallest in the state at 568 feet high (equivalent to a 56-story building). These huge structures will forever alter the rural landscape of Koʻolauloa.
Real estate experts in the U.S., Canada and Europe have determined that the value of homes located adjacent to wind farms have depreciated value with estimates of value loss ranging from 20-50%.
The wind farm project is situated on two watersheds so there are concerns about contamination of the drinking water. Additionally, the moving blades of the wind turbines and disruption to the movement of air is deadly to birds and endangered Native Hawaiian bats.