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Ocean AC project is safe, firm says

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The developer of a proposed $200 million air-conditioning system that draws cold sea water several miles off Hono­lulu said the proj­ect is unlikely to threaten endangered species such as monk seals or leatherback turtles.

Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning LLC said those animals can swim faster than the system’s maximum intake velocity of 3.4 mph.

A monk seal can reach speeds of 24 mph, and a leatherback can swim faster than 6 mph, the company said in a draft environmental impact statement.

“Their swimming capability would be more than adequate to escape,” the impact statement says.

Backed by some $145 million in tax-exempt, special-purpose revenue bonds from the state, the company proposes placing a 63-inch-diameter sea-water intake pipe extending four miles offshore to a depth of 1,600 feet to 1,800 feet, and a 54-inch diameter sea-water return pipe extending 3,500 feet offshore to a depth of 150 feet.

The system would pump about 50.4 million gallons of sea water a day to cool a network of freshwater air-conditioning pipes.

Sea water with a temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit would be pumped to a cooling station makai of Ala Moana Boulevard along Keawe Street, where it would undergo a heat exchange with fresh water circulating in a network of pipes to various buildings.

On land the proj­ect would involve digging and laying freshwater air-conditioning ducts along a number of streets in downtown Hono­lulu and extending into historic districts, including Chinatown,Merchant Street and the state Capitol.

Company Senior Vice President Michael Ahern said the proj­ect, whose investors are mainly from Hawaii, Sweden and Minnesota, is scheduled to start construction late this year and begin providing serv­ice to customers in 2013.

He said a similar system has been designed in Sweden by engineers with his company.

Ahern said the system will reduce Hawaii’s consumption of oil by some 178,000 barrels a year and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 84,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually.

The draft environmental statement said the pipeline could have an adverse effect on unknown burials and cultural sites and that the developer will be carrying out an archaeological monitoring plan approved by the State Historic Preservation Division during construction.

The draft statement is available for review at the Army Corps of Engineers website at www.poh.usace.army.mil/PA/pa-NRPNarchive.htm.

Comments about the draft statement may be sent by email or letter no later than May 2.

Send comments to Peter C. Galloway, Regulatory Proj­ect Manager; Army Corps of Engineers, Honolulu District; Regulatory Branch (CEPOH-EC-R); Building 230; Fort Shafter, HI 96858-5440. Comments may also be submitted to honoluluswac@usace.army.mil.

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