Land Use Commission – Ho’opili Case

Below is Section One of my Closing Argument given at the Land Use Commission in 2012.  It is the best summation of all the reasons why the Ho’opili farmland must be preserved.  Sources for the facts are also cited. 

Oral Closing Argument
by Dr. Kioni Dudley
Intervenor for Friends of Makakilo
Land Use Commission – Ho’opili Case
June 8, 2012

Good afternoon.
The question before this Commission is whether or not to completely destroy highly productive agricultural land to make way for yet another unneeded suburb.

Today, I will be addressing that question, along with the problems of traffic, and why these houses are not needed.

I

Let’s begin with agriculture.

I want to start with statements by the Petitioner’s ag expert, Bruce Plasch. Although no one would expect him to heap praise on the ag land involved, listen to what he said in the Environmental Impact Statements for this project (show the EIS) : This land “has very favorable conditions for crop production, with high-quality soils, flat or gently sloping terrain, high solar radiation (sunshine), low pumping costs for irrigation, and it’s location is close to town. It has prime soils of A and B quality. (EIS Vol.2. Sect. 1, p.ES1. Also Supp.WTD 2:1-7) Those are direct quotes! He’s saying the same thing we are. And he was testifying for the Petitioner! Why such great praise? Because it cannot be denied.

Plasch later writes, “The Petition Area constitutes about one-fourth of what was called the Golden Triangle,” and is the only part of the Golden Triangle still remaining in agriculture. (Plasch Supp. WDT 7:9-13) I want to repeat that: “The Petition Area constitutes about one-fourth of what was called the Golden Triangle.” The Golden Triangle. Why was the Petition land called the Golden Triangle? Because as another exhibit states, “For vegetable crops, the Ho’opili lands are among the most sustainably productive in the world.”(FOM James Brewbaker Exhibit 33, p. 1)

Most places in the world, because of their winters, have only one growing season a year. Hawaii can grow year round, though some areas are limited in number of crops per year because of cloud cover and rain. Because of abundant sunshine in low-lying Ho’opili, yields of crops like sweet corn are at least 55% higher there than on the North Shore slopes.(J B FOM Exhibit 33)

What does the land produce? In 2007, the last year records were kept, Ho`opili land produced more than 40% of Oahu’s fresh broccoli, beans, romaine lettuce, and zucchini, and more than 70% of Oahu’s fresh corn, cantaloupe, pumpkin, and honeydew, along with smaller percentages of a number of other crops. (DOA Statistics 2007)

Ho’opili constitutes a huge chunk of our ag land on O’ahu. When pineapple, coffee, flowers, and other export crops are excluded, there are only 4,800 acres of land on Oahu currently producing food for local people. Ho`opili accounts for 1,497 of those acres. That’s 32% of Oahu’s active farm acreage. (C. Fujikane, 1/19/12, 190:4-193:7) Again, let me repeat, Ho’opili constitutes roughly one-third of all the O’ahu farmland that produces food for the local market.

Let’s talk more about the soil — Professor Jonathan Deenik testified, “Close to 90% of the Petition area is composed of high activity clays, which are characterized by very high nutrient retention capacity, and high fertility. “ (J. Deenik, 3/16/12, 74:5-9) Fifty percent of the soils come from two groupings: Molosols and Vertisols. Deenik says, “Of the 12 soil types on the planet, these two fall at the very top in terms of fertility and agricultural productivity.” (Deenik 3/16/12 75:10-16)

We all need to be aware of the stark reality of what will happen to this precious farmland. Because a thousand of the acres are clay, which contracts and expands, cracking foundations, the developer will need to scrape off three or four feet of the prime, A and B quality soil, haul it away, and replace it with three feet of coral. (Repeat: They will put a thin layer of the soil back on top of the coral, forming an Oreo.) This destruction of the farmland will be total and irreversible. It will be impossible to correct for as long as humans live in these islands. (J. Deenik, 3/16/12 78:22-79:2)

Can we afford to let them do that? No. Why?

We import roughly 90% of our food. We have less than two week’s supply of food in the islands. If the ships don’t arrive, we don’t eat. We need to be aware of the many things that could cut off our food supply. A spike in oil prices could make many foods became too expensive to import. A tsunami could destroy our ports and low-lying airports. A pandemic could close the islands to all flights and all shipping. A major earthquake in California could destroy ports and roadways to them. War could cut Hawaii off from its food suppliers, even for years. These things may not happen soon, but your descendants will live here for centuries…Centuries. Surely the time will come when these Ho’opili lands will be needed for food in order to survive. But the farmlands will be gone. . . if you allow it.

Let’s look at some better alternatives for the future. In the Fall semester, 2012, Ma’o Farms will initiate an agriculture program of studies at the new UH West Oahu Campus, just across the road from Ho’opili. It will eventually accept 75 students a year. (Gary 3/1 45:8ff)

Those graduates will need farmland. Many witnesses have told us of the shortage of available land for small and medium-size farms. (G. Maunakea-Forth 3.1.12, 44: 1, 10-14; L. Cox, 3/1/12, 132:8-18) There really is no farmland available.

This Ho’opili land is the perfect solution for that problem. If you keep this land in ag, and if Aloun continues to make their slow move from the Ho’opili land to Galbraith Estate, over the years, this will open up the Ho’opili lands for young farmers and current farmers seeking to expand. With both properties being farmed—Ho’opili and Galbraith– we can almost double the food production of Ho’opili.

The timing could not be better. The lands would become available just as a new pro-farm consciousness is sweeping across America. We have seen such major changes in the last few years.

You remember, in 2009, when we began these hearings, I sat here alone, just one person standing up for the farms. In these last three and a half years, we have seen a mushrooming of public consciousness about fresh fruits and vegetables. People are concerned about nutrition. They want organically grown food. They feel strong about food security and the need to save our farmlands. All of these concepts are new. KANU Hawaii has 30,000 members eating right, eating local. It’s everywhere: Honolulu Weekly has articles each week. Civil Beat, Hawaii Reporter, other webnews sites. The Star Advertiser, Hawaii Public Radio, ‘Olelo, Talk Radio. We have 50 farmer’s markets on this island alone. Surveys say people are willing to pay more for locally grown food. And they are right.

We have become a food conscious and farm conscious society.

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