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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 23, 2010

Panel's ruling on Lāna'i water issue questioned

By Ilima Loomis
Maui News

WAILUKU, Maui A member of Lanaians for Sensible Growth has asked the state Land Use Commission to reconsider its decision allowing Castle & Cooke Resorts to use brackish water from the island's high-level aquifer to irrigate its golf course.

A Land Use Commission official said the request was premature.

In a letter last week, Lāna'i resident Butch Gima said the way the commission conducted a Jan. 8 hearing in Lāna'i City was "disrespectful and offensive." He said the panel's process was secretive and made it impossible for Lāna'i residents to know how commissioners made their decision.

Gima said no new evidence was provided to justify overturning a 1996 ruling on the aquifer.

In a response this week, commission Executive Director Orlando Davidson said Gima's request was "premature" because the actions taken by the commission at its Jan. 8 meeting still were being processed and had not been filed yet.

Davidson said any motions for reconsideration had to come from one of the parties directly involved in the case. He suggested that Gima work with Lanaians for Sensible Growth, an intervenor in the case, and resubmit the motion as a group.

The dispute stems from a requirement that Castle & Cooke not use potable water from the island's high-level aquifer to irrigate its golf course, The Challenge At Manele.

The company has contended that its water well meets the requirement because it is brackish, but Lanaians for Sensible Growth has argued Castle & Cooke is in violation because the well taps the high-level aquifer.

On Jan. 8, the commission voted unanimously to adopt a proposal by Castle & Cooke to define nonpotable water according to the amount of chlorides it contained, setting the limit at an amount that would allow the company to continue using its brackish wells.

In his letter, Gima said he was disgusted by the short amount of time the commission gave to the issue at its Lāna'i meeting, the fact that the motion acted upon by commissioners had been drafted ahead of time, that a portion of the meeting was spent in executive session, and an apparent lack of interest in public testimony by some commissioners.