HONOLULU (AP) - Some Lanai residents are objecting to plans to build Hawaii's largest wind farm on the island, an effort that could supply one-fifth of Oahu's electricity demand.
The community is divided over the $750 million project, with supporters arguing for energy independence and opponents claiming it could cut public access to hunting and fishing.
The wind farm idea by David Murdock, a billionaire who owns 98 percent of the island and Castle & Cooke Inc., would build 125 turbines spread over 10,000 to 12,000 acres and then export power to Oahu via undersea cables.
''We're prepared to fight him on this,'' said retired state worker Ron McOmber, who has squabbled with Murdock before.
''They're not going to let you go hunting in that area or go fishing in that area,'' said Lanai Postmaster Bradford Oshiro.
''They're going to lock it up.''
But Christopher Lovvorn, Castle & Cooke's director of alternative energy, said fishers, hikers and beachgoers wouldn't lose access to the area, and individual turbines won't even be fenced in.
''Why don't we all get together, do the same thing, make this island into something really spectacular?'' Murdock asked at an Aug. 15 community meeting in the Lanai High and Elementary School cafeteria. ''I am trying to get us economic stability. You be my benefit, and I'll be yours.''
Wind power would help expand Lanai's economy primarily by giving Castle & Cooke a source of profit to help sustain other operations and investments on the island. Castle & Cooke employs more than a third of the 3,000 people who live on the island, many of whom back the wind project.
The wind farm itself would create only a few jobs, perhaps 15 to 20, Lovvorn estimates.
In addition, it wouldn't necessarily reduce the cost of electricity for Lanai residents, who pay the highest rates in the state at about 55 cents per kilowatt hour, compared to the statewide average of about 30 cents per kilowatt hour.
Concerns about Murdock's plans led 32 Lanai residents to sign a letter published in The Honolulu Advertiser on Aug. 10 in which the author, Robin Kaye, questioned how the plan would affect access, the environment and island residents.
Murdock doesn't need a vote of approval from residents to develop the wind farm, but opposition could derail his plans.
Environmentalist Jeff Mikulina, outgoing director of the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter, said he supports Murdock's general plan to supply power to Oahu with wind.
''This is an exciting project,'' he said. ''We think Hawaii needs to be - and will be - the role model for the globe for (renewable energy).
"Lanai is certainly blessed with wind resources, and we should be tapping into that.''
The wind farm plan is still a long way off.
Castle & Cooke will need to evaluate whether financing, area wind speeds, environmental students and other factors will make the project feasible.
It could take five to seven years to obtain all necessary permits.