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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 27, 2010

Panel boosts stream flow

Maui News

PĀ'IA, Maui State Commission on Water Resource Management members reached a historic compromise Tuesday night, returning some water to six East Maui streams in a decision that left both sides in the water dispute dissatisfied.

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar General Manager Chris Benjamin called it "another bite from the apple," noting that the action followed a commission decision two years ago in which the firm lost millions of gallons a day in eight other streams.

HC&S also is awaiting a contested case ruling that could mean that Hawai'i's last sugar producer will lose an additional 34.5 million gallons a day in the Central Maui Na Wai Eha, or four great streams, debate.

The complainants' attorney, Alan Murakami of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., immediately called for a contested case hearing the moment the proceedings ended. That means the plaintiffs will seek binding arbitration for another, more favorable result.

The commission voted to restore water in the wet season to four streams: Waikamoi (1.68 million gallons per day), West Wailuaiki (2.46 million gallons), East Wailuaiki (2.39 million gallons) and Waiohue (2.07 million gallons).

In the dry season, West and East Wailuaiki and Waiohue will get 0.26 mgd, 0.13 mgd and 0.06 mgd, respectively.

The county Department of Water Supply lobbied hard for the commission to leave Waikamoi alone since it primarily serves 10,000 Upcountry customers. In the dry season, water diversions will remain in place and no stream water from Waika- moi will be restored.

Two other streams, Makapipi and Hanawi, will receive more water year-round, totaling 0.66 million gallons per day.

The commission voted unanimously, noting that restoring Makapipi stream would assist taro farmers who already work the stream.

Commissioners also restored the stream at Hanawi at a rate of 0.06 million gallons per day year-round.

The commission members include William Balfour, Neal Fujiwara, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, Donna Fay Kiyosaki and Dr. Lawrence Miike. Commissioner Sumner Erdman recused himself since he is president of Ulupalakua Ranch, which receives Upcountry water.

State Department of Land and Natural Resources Board Chairwoman Laura H. Thielen is also chairwoman of the commission. Thielen, Balfour, Kiyosaki, Fukino and Fujiwara all voted for the four-stream deal. Miike was against the four-stream compromise.

Balfour said he had a problem with restoring Waika-moi stream water since the county's flume is old and leaky, but he eventually voted for it. He acknowledged that the county is ready to spend $500,000 this year on designs and is committed to rehabilitating the flume.

"I think we should see how it works out and return to this," Balfour said.

Miike disagreed with both restoring water only annually and going with the staff recommendations instead of those of the Division of Aquatic Resources, which would have restored water in the Kopiliula, Puaka'a and Haipuaena streams.