Debate at a hearing weighs environmental concerns against economic needs
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 27, 2010
LIHUE » Kauai environmentalists and business interests are clashing over whether to renew a federal permit that would allow a shrimp farm to continue discharging effluent into the ocean.
Sunrise Capital, a unit of Missouri-based Integrated Aquaculture International, wants to renew its Environmental Protection Agency permit for a shrimp farm in Kekaha.
Sunrise currently produces white shrimp at its facility, mainly for local consumption and breeding stock for export. The firm has plans to produce everything from kahala, moi, oysters, clams, seaweed and algae to produce jet fuel.
George Chamberlain, a founder of Integrated Aquaculture International, told about 50 people gathered at a public hearing on Wednesday that the effluent discharge "has no impact," according to the Kauai Garden Island.
Other supporters, who comprised about half of the audience, were focused on economic concerns.
"We need those jobs again," said Tony Ricci, a resident. He contended critics are blowing out of proportion potential problems with discharges.
But other residents and representatives of environmental groups criticized the permit renewal.
Rayne Regush of the Kauai branch of the Sierra Club said her organization opposes the company's application. If it were renewed, she said the frequency of monitoring should be increased, water-quality testing should also look for bacteria, and monitoring data should be made available online to the public.
Rich Hoeppner, chairman of People for the Preservation of Kauai, said island residents will take matters into their own hands if ocean discharges continue. He cited as an example the now-defunct Hawaii Superferry, which suspended service to Kauai in 2007 after protesters blocked the ship from entering Nawiliwili Harbor.
"Is this another done deal, like Superferry?" Hoeppner asked.
Surfers complained that the effluent might attract sharks or at the least was unpleasant -- particularly at a popular surf break near Kekaha Beach Park known as Kinikinis.
But Chamberlain said his team has identified dead and decaying tilapia in the nearby ditch system as the culprit and has instituted measures to control the fish and keep them from getting into the shrimp farm system.
Steven Jacobson, a state Department of Health hearing officer, told the crowd the public comment period on the permit renewal has been extended until Friday.
The department had received more than 150 written comments on the permit application as of Tuesday, he added.