Monday, April 27, 2009

Maui Wind Energy Producer Proposes Expansion

Kaheawa Wind Power II, LLC, a subsidiary of First Wind is proposing an expansion of its wind energy generation facility on the island of Maui.

The project includes the construction and operation of a new 21 MW wind power facility (14 wind turbine generators with associated electrical transmission and interconnection facilities) within the State Conservation District. It will be located adjacent to the existing Kaheawa Wind Power facility above Maalaea, Maui.

Because the proposed project may potentially result in the incidental take of four threatened and endangered species [Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis), Newell’s shearwater (Puffinus auricularis newelli), Hawaiian goose (Branta sandvicensis), and Hawaiian hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus)], Kaheawa Wind must prepare a a Habitat Conservation Plan pursuant to the Endangered Species Act ("ESA") and HRS Chapter 195D. The objective being to avoid, minimize, mitigate and monitor impacts to protected species.

ESA section 9 prohibits the unauthorized "take" of any endangered or threatened species of fish or wildlife listed under the ESA. Under the ESA, the term "take" means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect species listed as endangered or threatened, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. An unauthorized take can lead to fines and imprisonment. However, the US Fish and Wildlife Service ("FWS") may permit prohibited takings if it is incidental to the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity. Before the FWS grants an incidental take permit, the applicant must first develop, fund, and implement a FWS-approved habitat conservation plan to minimize and mitigate the effects of the incidental take. The requisite criteria for an incidental take permit can be found under ESA section 10(a)(1)(B) and 50 CFR sections 17.22(b)(2) and 17.32(b)(2).

State law also circumscribes unauthorized takes of endangered or threatened species under HRS section 195D-4. At the state level, the Board of Land and Natural Resources will issue an incidental take license after approval of the HCP by the State's Endangered Species Recovery Committee. The Committee is comprised of biological experts and representatives of affected state and federal agencies. The state's requirements are higher than under the ESA, but both processes are coordinated.

The Draft Kaheawa Wind Power II Wind Energy Generation Facility Habitat Conservation Plan, Island of Maui (April 2009) is available for public review and comment. A public hearing will be held in May according to the April 23, 2009 edition of the Environmental Notice.

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