Hawaii high court hears argument about wind farm, bats

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Supreme Court has heard arguments regarding a dispute regarding how many endangered Hawaiian hoary bats a wind farm is allowed to kill.

The Na Pua Makani wind farm has sparked controversy after 200 people were arrested trying to stop its massive turbines from being hauled from the port at Kalaeloa to Kahuku, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday.

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Now the 24-megawatt project is at the center of a legal dispute with the nonprofit Keep the North Shore Country over the developer’s habitat conservation plan and incidental take license, which allows the turbines to kill 51 bats over 21 years.

Lance Collins, the nonprofit’s attorney, told the justices that the agency did not follow the standard set by the Legislature in protecting endangered species.

John Manaut, attorney for Na Pua Makani, told justices at the hearing that the conservation plan is based on the best available science and was compiled by the members of the Endangered Species Recovery Committee and two experts who testified at the case hearing, the newspaper reported.

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Scientists estimate there are between a few hundred and a few thousand Hawaiian hoary bats in the main Hawaiian Islands. The species is the state’s only land mammal and is susceptible to extinction due to its low reproductive rates.

Na Pua Makani is an eight-turbine project that will help Oahu reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, Manaut said.

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