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Embrace People-Friendly Planning

Open letter to Public Utilities Commission and Consumer Advocates Office.

September 29, 2011
Maury King, Kīhei, Founder of South Maui Bicycle Coalition

The community has asked that the lines be underground—or at least routed further up the mountain across ranch land—so there wouldn’t be 70-foot towers all the way down the main highway in our community.

Both representatives from Maui Electric Company (MECO) and their consultants Munekiyo & Hiraga told us that “the PUC mandates that we choose the least expensive solution” to the routing and presentation of the lines.

If this is true, the whole state will be doomed to the worst choice for power lines in every case, because tall and visible will always be the “least expensive” solution if we only consider the obvious cost to build and maintain. But what about the value of beauty lost by 70-foot towers in view-planes across our most beautiful state? At what point will residents and tourists make different decisions about where to live and visit?

How has this been handled in the past to keep these towers from being right in our most populated areas, usually right close to the ocean?

It was also very frustrating that MECO and Munekiyo & Hiraga don’t really seem to have any enthusiasm for seeking a better solution. It is inconceivable to the Kīhei community that the companies and agencies involved care so little for what this would do to the character of Kīhei, which is trying so hard to move forward with the feel of a community. We want it to be attractive and people-friendly. This is a stigma on the beautification part of our commitment to the community. That will most likely last forever.

There is a huge amount of both commercial and residential development planned for mauka of the Pi‘ilani Highway. These lines would be immediately mauka of the highway, and every single bit of mauka construction will be looking right at the giant transmission towers. That just doesn’t make any sense, when putting the lines mauka of planned construction would make every bit of land planned for development more valuable. These towers will make all the mauka land less valuable, since they will stand right in the view plane.

MECO says the higher up the mountain solution wouldn’t be practical because they would have to get easements from the ranch owners and “that could take a lot of time.” I would think that since some of these same ranch owners are the people that own the land that the mauka construction would be located on, they might be inclined to grant easements to MECO very quickly and easily. Isn’t this as good a time as any to start thinking intelligently about our future?



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