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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 25, 2010

Water board may not drop agricultural subsidy after all

Advertiser Staff

Facing opposition from farmers and ranchers, the Hawai'i County Water Board is having second thoughts about discontinuing its agricultural subsidy, West Hawaii Today reported.

The board on Tuesday approved a $40.7 million operations budget and a $19.7 million capital improvements budget.

But how that spending plan will be financed depends on action the board will take after public hearings in early May. New rates would go into effect July 1.

"The net result for budgetary purposes for the department will remain the same," Water Board Chairman Dwayne Mukaisaid. "The only question is who pays what."

The original plan, based on recommendations from a consultant, was to raise residential and commercial water rates from 5.8 percent to 8.3 percent, depending on how much water is used. Agricultural rates would increase by 6.8 percent to 7.8 percent.

Under the plan, a residential home on a five-eighth-inch meter using 20,000 gallons every two months would see its bimonthly bill go up $6.60, to $92.60. That includes a $13.25 monthly standby charge and a power cost charge of $1.77 per 1,000 gallons.

An agricultural user under the same scenario using the same amount of water would see a $5.10 increase, resulting in a bimonthly bill of $79.70.

But that amount alarmed farmers and ranchers, who wrote letters in opposition to the Water Board. The letters came from the Hawaii Cattlemen's Association, Hawaii Cattlemen's Council, Parker Ranch and Palani Ranch Co. Inc.