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Plans for new Lalamilo wind farm cap the agenda at Waimea town meeting

Southwest of Waimea town, 120 decrepit wind turbines of the Lalamilo Windfarm sit idle, a ghost town of broken parts left over from the first boom of alternative energy generation sites built in the 1980s.

A proposed new wind farm at Lalamilo, located adjacent to eight Department of Water Supply wells, will generate electric power to provide a less expensive energy source for water pumping equipment, said Julie Myhre, an energy management analyst with DWS.

Myhre presented plans for the new facility to the Waimea community at the town meeting on April 4 at the Waimea School cafeteria. The new turbines are much better designed, and more efficient, said Myhre.

“With advances in technology, the old 120 turbines are being replaced by just five new turbines,” she said.

The goal of the DWS is to stabilize water rates, said Myhre, and currently, 41 percent of local water bill costs are electricity, mostly for pumping. The Lalamilo wind farm is proposed to save DWS customers more than $1.5 million per year over the next 20 years.

This project will be constructed, operated, and owned by a third party. Three companies have prepared proposals for the site, and DWS expects to select the contractor this spring. Following the selection, further steps include a power purchase agreement with HELCO, an environmental assessment, and negotiation of a 50-year lease with DLNR.

This project will not only benefit DWS customers, but also help the state meet its Clean Energy Initiative’s goal of 70 percent renewable energy by 2030.

“It’s a win-win solution,” said Myhre.

DWS invites community input into the wind farm project. Contact Julie Myhre by email at jmyhre@hawaiidws.org, or call the DWS office at 961-8790.

Other community news on last Thursday’s agenda:

• Lowell Johnson, a “turnaround specialist” recently appointed as interim CEO for the North Hawaii Community Hospital(NHCH), described his history of success with management of more than 25 struggling hospitals across the country. The goal of NHCH is to break even financially, which will require eliminating a $5 million annual deficit.

“Your hospital will be one more success story,” said Johnson. Find out more at the NHCH website, http://www.nhch.com.

• Gunner Mench, Chair of the South Kohala Traffic Safety Committee, shared plans for our district included in Hawaii’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program. Upcoming projects for which funds have been allocated include design of a Kawaihae Road bypass, design and construction of a replacement for the Waiaka Bridge, and completion of the re-aligned Saddle Road by August 2013. Read the full plan at the Hawaii State Department of Transportation website, http://hidot.hawaii.gov (search for “STIP”).

• The West Hawaii Mediation Center is celebrating 25 years of commitment to our island communities. One-third of the center’s work involves mediation for family, divorce, or custody cases, said executive director Janie Chandler-Edmondson. WHMC also provides assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure, and can assist with loan modification negotiations. These latter services have become crucial for residents of Hawaii County, which has had the highest foreclosure rate in the State, she said. For more information, call WHMC at 885-5525, or visit their website, http://www.whmediation.org.