PAIA — State Commission on Water Resource Management members reached a historic compromise late Tuesday night, returning some water to six East Maui streams, but leaving both sides in the water dispute dissatisfied.
Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar General Manager Chris Benjamin called it "another bite from the apple," noting that the commission’s action came in addition to losing millions of gallons a day in eight other streams in a commission decision two years ago. HC&S also is awaiting a contested case ruling that could mean that Hawaii’s last sugar producer will lose another 34.5 million gallons a day in the Central Maui Na Wai Eha, or four great streams, debate.
The complainants’ attorney, Alan Murakami, of Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., immediately called for — and had recognized — a contested case hearing request the moment the proceedings ended. That means the plaintiffs will seek binding arbitration for another, more favorable result.
The commission voted to restore water to four streams only in the wet season, Waikamoi, West and East Wailuaiki and Waiohue, with 1.68 million gallons per day, 2.46 mgd, 2.39 mdg and 2.07 mdg, respectively. In the dry season, West and East Wailuaiki and Waiohue will get 0.26 mgd, 0.13 mgd and 0.06 mgd, respectively.
The county Department of Water Supply lobbied hard for the commission to leave Waikamoi alone since it primarily serves 10,000 Upcountry customers. In the dry season, water diversions will remain in place and no stream water from Waikamoi will be restored.
Two other streams, Makapipi and Hanawi, will receive more water year round, or annually, totaling 0.66 million gallons a day.
Commission staff had recommended that 10.46 million gallons per day be restored to streams, to provide habitat for native plants and animals, and to improve conditions for Hawaiian taro farmers in the region. That report revised an earlier recommendation made in December, which called for water to be restored to only one of the streams.
Murakami had said he was generally satisfied with the staff recommendation.
He noted HC&S currently draws 88 percent of the water in all East Maui streams, using an average 167 million gallons per day, in addition to 72 mgd it pumps from wells. With that in mind, Murakami said what his clients were asking for was reasonable.
But HC&S’ Benjamin said the plantation, which has suffered under drought and deep losses for the past several years, needs every drop.
For a complete story on the decision, see Wednesday’s Maui News.