Report No. 08-03 February 2008
Marion M. Higa
Office of the Auditor State Auditor
465 South King Street, Room 500
State of Hawai?i Honolulu, Hawai?i 96813
(808) 587-0800 FAX (808) 587-0830
We conducted this audit in response to Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 176, of the 2007 legislative session. The Moloka’i Irrigation System provides about 1.4 billion gallons of water annually to its users. Construction was started in 1957 to bring water from the eastern end of Moloka’i to the central farming areas as part of a federal and state commitment to native Hawaiian homesteaders. The system consists of collection dams and deep wells; a transmission tunnel, pipes, and flume; a reservoir; and distribution pipes to customers. Among the customers is the Moloka’i Ranch, via a rental agreement.
We found that while the Department of Agriculture inherited a broken system, little has been done to learn about system problems or to create a plan to address them. The department received historical data on the system from the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and yet it was not clear that department personnel understood the significance of its history. Numerous studies recommended management and operational improvements. For example, problems reported in a 1987 study still exist today, unadressed.
The department?s flawed management endangers agriculture in Moloka’i. It has been unable to reconcile its responsibilities as stewards to the irrigation system and obligations to the Hawaiian homesteaders. While it recognizes the homesteaders’ two-thirds water preference accorded by Section 168-4, HRS, this is not reflected in any planning. Non-homestead farmers consume approximately 80 percent of the system’s available water. Effectively, the two seemingly complementary responsibilities have become competitors with the needs of the homesteaders subsumed to the interests of larger agricultural business.