Legal notices published Wednesday in The Maui News and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser listing people, churches, and commercial and other entities with claims to kuleana water rights in the Na Wai Eha surface water management area are part of a “historic” effort by the state water commission to recognize those appurtenant rights.
“This is the first time in its history that the commission is formally going to permanently recognize kuleana rights,” said Isaac Moriwake, an Earthjustice attorney, Wednesday.
He represented Hui o Na Wai Eha and Maui Tomorrow, which along with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, earlier this month claimed a major victory for appurtenant or kuleana water rights in the Hawaii Supreme Court. Moriwake and his clients got the high court to vacate a state Commission on Water Resource Management decision in a dispute over mauka diversions of the surface water of Na Wai Eha, or the four great waters of Central Maui – Waihee, Waiehu, Waikapu and Iao streams.
Currently, surface water is diverted from the four West Maui Mountain streams for Central Maui sugar cultivation and domestic use, and Native Hawaiian and environmental groups are seeking to have more water returned to streams to revive the natural habitat and to allow for taro cultivation.
The publication of those with claims to kuleana water was not directly related to the Hawaii Supreme Court ruling Aug. 15. However, as part of the process of recognizing kuleana water rights, water commission officials will be estimating how much water was historically used by landowners.
The kuleana water inventory can only help as the state water commission revisits the allocation of Na Wai Eha water, Moriwake said.
“There has been a historical difficulty to have these rights recognized,” he added. Continue reading
PAIA – The state Commission on Water Resource Management will hold two days of hearings starting Wednesday on competing applications for withdrawal of water from Na Wai Eha, the surface water collection system that serves Central and South Maui.
During earlier proceedings, the commission received applications from existing users to continue withdrawing water pending a final commission decision on allocating the water resource. Most of the applications have been challenged because there likely will be less water allocated by the commission than the total of present withdrawals, even before applications for new uses are considered.
Starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Paia Community Center, the commission will hear testimony from users to justify the reasonable and beneficial uses they intend for water.
The commission staff will present a new map, which graphically represents the users’ locations and the ditches and gates where they seek to draw off the water. Commission staff member Roy Hardy said the map should help sort out exactly which applications are in conflict.
Two commissioners, Neal Fujiwara and Sumner Erdman, will conduct the hearings. Continue reading
WAIHEE – At its mouth, the Waihee River was only around a foot deep Monday afternoon – but that was good news to Scott Fisher of the Maui Coastal Land Trust.
Fisher was monitoring conditions in the first hours after Wailuku Water Co. restored water to the river, carrying out the terms of an order by the state Commission on Water Resource Management in June that the company return 12.5 million gallons per day to two of the four streams that make up Na Wai Eha.
Fisher said the water in the river was at about the same level it would typically be during the rainy season, and it was noticeably colder than it would normally be on a mid-August day. The water restoration would almost certainly mean healthier plants and animals in Waihee River, he said.
Wailuku Water Co., which diverts the stream for users including Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., had opened some of its diversion gates at Waiehu Stream on Monday as well.
Commission member Dr. Lawrence Miike, who oversaw the contested case hearing, originally recommended that half of Na Wai Eha’s water be returned to all four streams. But the other commissioners did not agree and no water was returned to the Iao and Waikapu streams below their diversion points, while less water than he recommended was returned to Waihee and Waiehu streams. Continue reading
The state says Wailuku Water Co. and Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. will begin releasing water to Waihee River and North and South Waiehu Streams in central Maui next week.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources says the companies next Monday will act to comply with a state water commission order issued in June.
But the move is unlikely to satisfy two Maui groups who want the companies to return more water than the commission ordered.
Hui o Na Wai Eha and Maui Tomorrow appealed the water commission’s ruling in state court last month.
They say they’re being deprived of the water they need to grow taro and restore natural habitat.
Maui County today announced a settlement today of a dispute over an environmental impact statement for a proposed stream water treatment plant.
Mayor Charmaine Tavares said the county will “revisit” the study.
Maui Tomorrow and Hui o Na Wai `Eha filed a lawsuit in Maui Circuit Court on June 21, challenging the adequacy of the Waiale Treatment Facility’s study.
The two groups also appealed a decision by the state Commission on Water Resource Management to restore only about one-fifth of the total flow from four streams.
A decision on the appeal is expected to take years and could affect plans for the Waiale plant, so the county has decided to take another look at the proposed project, county officials said.
Hui o Na Wai `Eha President John Duey said his group was glad the county agreed to carefully examine the costs and benefits of the treatment facility.
A&B Properties Inc., which developed the study, said the firm will continue to support the county’s effort to find water for residents.
State Commission on Water Resource Management Director Laura Thielen defended last week’s decision by the water panel to order 12.5 million gallons of water per day – now diverted by ditches for sugar cane irrigation and other uses – back into West Maui Mountain streams.
She said the commission established groundbreaking requirements for water conservation and called for the development of alternative water sources to streams for users.
"It was a very hard decision to make," said Thielen, who heads the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. "It’s not like it was a mathematical equation where there is one right answer. It was somewhat subjective. Maybe no one is 100 percent happy with the decisions, but to me, the important thing is we made the tough decisions."
The commission’s order Thursday to restore 12.5 million gallons to the streams – which will likely be appealed to Hawaii courts – amounted to about a third of the amount proposed by contested hearing officer and commissioner Dr. Lawrence Miike. The environmental and Native Hawaiian groups that had been hoping for more water to be restored called the decision a miscarriage of justice.
[callout]"The fact is we don’t have enough water, and there needs to be better investment in making systems more efficient and finding new water sources," Thielen said.[/callout] "I just felt it was important to make the hard decisions."
The majority members of the commission are forcing people to address the limits on Maui’s water resources, she said, adding that she hopes the panel’s action will inspire more responsible water resource management at the local level. It is time to move on to the tougher, more expensive water sources, such as digging wells and repairing leaks, she said.
WAIKAPU -Taro farmers and environmentalists said Friday that they would appeal a decision by the state Commission on Water Resource Management that ordered just a fraction of the water they hoped to see restored to the Na Wai Eha streams.
Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake, who represented the groups that petitioned for greater stream flow, said legal precedent, the state water code and the Hawaii Constitution were on their side. He said he hoped the 6-year-old case would be resolved in their favor within another two to three years.
"The bottom line is we waited six years to get to this point, and I guarantee it will not take that long to get this resolved in the court system," Moriwake said. "If the law means anything, the court will find that the commission did not follow its public trust responsibilities in this case."
The water commission on Thursday ordered that a minimum of 12.5 million gallons of water per day be allowed to flow in Na Wai Eha streams, about a third of the amount that had been proposed. The decision restored water to only two of the four streams – 10 mgd to the Waihee River, and 2.5 mgd for the Waiehu Stream. Diversions at the remaining Iao and Waikapu streams would remain at existing levels.
PUUNENE – Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. General Manager Chris Benjamin characterized last week’s long-awaited state decision on Na Wai Eha stream waters as a reprieve, rather than a victory, for the plantation struggling for survival.
On Thursday, the state Commission on Water Resource Management ordered 12.5 million gallons of water per day to no longer be diverted from West Maui Mountain streams, also called Na Wai Eha, or the "Four Great Streams."
That amount to be returned was only about a third of what had been proposed by Dr. Lawrence Miike, a commissioner and the contested hearings officer for the ongoing water dispute.
"I would say that the commission’s decision is nuanced," Benjamin said. "I would not use the word ‘victory.’ The reality is we still lost a significant amount of water for a plantation that lost $45 million over the last couple years because of low crop yields (due to drought conditions).
"It’s a setback in that respect, but relative to the initial recommendation, it’s a dramatic improvement," Benjamin said. "In the long term, at least this gives us hope when we’re just trying to stay in business."
Panel: Decision strikes a balance between values, responsibilities
By ILIMA LOOMIS, Staff Writer
The state Commission on Water Resource Management on Thursday ordered 12.5 million gallons of water per day be allowed to flow in the Na Wai Eha streams in the West Maui Mountains, about one-third of the amount that had been proposed.
The commission majority said the decision represented a balance between the values and responsibilities the law required them to consider. Chairwoman Laura Thielen said in a statement that even if 100 percent of the water were diverted, it would still not be enough to meet demands.
But contested hearings officer Lawrence Miike, also a commission member, issued a scathing dissenting opinion that accused the water panel’s majority of protecting the interests of private corporations over the public streams.
"By its decision, the majority has failed in its duties under the constitution and the state water code as trustee of the state’s public water resource," Miike wrote.
The state Commission on Water Resource Management has ordered 12.5 million gallons of water per day be restored to the Na Wai Eha streams, about one-third of the water that was being considered for restoration a year ago.
The decision released on Thursday addresses a years-long effort by environmental and Native Hawaiian groups to force former sugar plantations and the County of Maui to put back some of the water being diverted from four streams that run out of the West Maui Mountains to Central Maui.
Under the order:
- Waihee stream would be restored to 10 million gallons per day.
- North Waiehu stream would get 1.6 mgd.
- South Waiehu stream would get 0.9 mgd.
- Iao and Waikapu streams would remain at current levels.
Approximately 60 million to 70 million gallons per day are diverted from Na Wai Eha, or the four waters of the West Maui Mountains. In April 2009, Water commission hearings officer Dr. Lawrence Miike issued a "proposed decision" to restore 34.5 million gallons to the streams.
Throughout the dispute, environmentalists and Native Hawaiian groups have argued that restoring water to the streams is necessary for taro farming and to provide habitat for aquatic life. Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar has argued the water is critical for already tenuous sugar farming operations.