Many Hawaii farmers and ranchers say the cost of complying with proposed safety rules regulating dams and reservoirs will be more than they can afford and that they’ll be turning to the state Legislature for financial aid.
“We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Alan Gottlieb, a past president of the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council.
The proposed administrative rules were approved by the state land board Monday and forwarded to Gov. Linda Lingle. The governor’s approval is required before they take effect.
The rules would regulate 138 reservoirs in Hawaii that have the capacity to hold 5 million gallons or more.
State officials said the increases in fees would pay for costs of enforcing the new safety rules.
Critics say that besides the high cost, the regulations would discourage the operation of existing reservoirs, many of which operate on narrow profit margins.
One of the largest regulated reservoirs is at the city’s Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden in Kaneohe.
The reservoir, built as a flood-control project, usually stores 84.7 million gallons but has a capacity of 1.4 billion gallons, according to the state.
Farmers and ranchers say that while they support safety regulations in light of the 2006 Koloko Reservoir dam break on Kauai that killed seven people, the proposed rules place an unreasonable burden on businesses.