PAIA – The state Commission on Water Resource Management will take up a petition next week to set new instream-flow standards for 16 East Maui streams.
The panel will meet at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Paia Community Center, where it could render a final decision in the ongoing dispute over East Maui stream water, much of it now diverted by ditches to irrigate Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. fields in Central Maui.
The meeting will continue hearings held in December to determine how much water the sugar plantation and Maui County can continue to take from the East Maui watershed. The county Department of Water Supply takes the water for domestic use by residents.
Decisions that come out of the meeting could have long-lasting impacts on all the parties involved. Previously, commissioners had asked the sides to come up with compromises to share the surface water resource, such as fixing leaky ditches and restoring water to streams in the rainy winter months.
The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting sets aside time for presentations from the state water commission staff, the Nahiku Community Association, Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., HC&S and county Department of Water Supply.
The commission, which is part of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, also will accept public testimony. If there is not time on Tuesday to make a final decision, the commission is tentatively scheduled to reconvene on June 16 and July 21, according to the agenda released Wednesday.
The long-fought battle over East Maui’s stream water has pitted environmentalists and Native Hawaiian taro farmers against HC&S, Maui County and Upcountry farmers and ranchers.
The water commission has already required HC&S to partially restore millions of gallons a day to several streams on the western half of the East Maui watershed.
With Maui still in a 3-year-old drought, HC&S has said that further claims on available surface water would hurt the company and jeopardize more than 800 agricultural jobs.