Na Wai ‘Eha decides on aid for the acquisition of the county | News, Sports, Jobs

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Wailuku Water Co. Reservoir No. 10, a terminal reservoir for the Iao-Waikapu Ditch, is pictured during low water levels last year. While the state’s decision on Na Wai ‘Eha will help some details of the county’s planned acquisition of the water distribution system from Wailuku Water Co., Avery Chumbley, chairman of Wailuku Water Co., said that the decision adds a greater burden to the business. both regulator and executor. Photos of AVERY CHUMBLEY

Following the state water commission’s landmark ruling on Central and West Maui water rights last week, Maui County said the ruling detailed details that will assist the ongoing work to acquire the water distribution system from Wailuku Water Co.

However, the state’s decision on Na Wai ‘Eha’s water rights does not necessarily speed up the county’s process to purchase the system, according to county manager Sandy Baz. Located in central and western Maui, Na Wai ‘Eha – or the “Four great waters” Waihee River, Waiehu Creek, Wailuku River, and Waikapu Creek – provides approximately 70 percent of the county’s drinking water to residents of Maui through the Wailuku Water Co. water distribution system.

“No, that doesn’t make things faster” Baz told The Maui News. “We are still planning to acquire it and we are in the process of going through this process.”

Meanwhile, Wailuku Water Co. chairman Avery Chumbley said that although the state has allocated money to buy land in the Na Wai ‘Eha watershed, the county is advancing at such a pace. slow that he wonders if the acquisition of hydraulic infrastructure will take place.

“Unfortunately, the county has not moved at a pace fast enough to convince us that it is really moving forward,” he said last week. “So I suspect that I will have to go back to the PUC and open a new case for a tariff matter and set a tariff for the delivery of water under these contracts.”

A punawai that is part of Wailuku Water Co.’s water distribution system is shown during low water levels last year. Wailuku Water Co. president Avery Chumbley said the system, which brings Na Wai ‘Eha water to many users, is often misunderstood.

Citing financial losses, Wailuku Water Co. has sought for nearly two decades to sell its water distribution system, as well as nearly 9,000 acres of land in the Na Wai ‘Eha watershed in the West Maui mountains. In the past, the county had considered purchasing the company’s assets, including the water system and land, for $ 9.5 million.

Instead, the county is now working on “Branch off” the purchase and evaluation of the planned costs for the system alone.

A week ago, the State Commission on Water Resources Management issued a long decision and ordinance on water use in Na Wai ‘Eha which officially recognizes the related rights, including the cultivation of kalo and other traditional and customary practices.

Saying that this is the most comprehensive application of Hawaii’s water code to the use and protection of water in history, the decision has an impact on more than 150 different water use applications, including smallholder farmers and area landowners, to larger groups, such as Maui County and Mahi Pono. In total, 1,000 determinations gave rise to 116 recognized ancillary rights and 176 permits.

The commission’s decision approved two permits totaling 3.2 million gallons per day so that the Maui County Water Supply Department can continue to provide water from the Na Wai ‘Eha system to more than 100 000 clients in Kuau, Paia, Spreckelsville, Kahului, Puunene, Kihei. , Wailea, Makena, Waikapu, Wailuku, Waihee and Waiehu.

Baz said on Friday that the decision clarifies the responsibilities of Wailuku Water Co., which better defines parts of the planned acquisition.

“Regarding the acquisition aid, the decision and the order indicate more clearly what is included in the acquisition” he said. “Because of this decision and this order, we know, okay, that there are limits that will be placed on the Wailuku Water Company, and they are set in stone. Or on paper. So we can at least analyze this more clearly now than before the D&O.

Chumbley, however, said the state’s decision places a heavy burden on the company, which serves as a quasi-public utility. Last week, he said he was not sure the company would appeal.

“If we are to be both the authority and the regulator, and the people have the expectation and the need to get a certain volume of water, and under the direction of decision and order, I gotta start cutting people off and downsizing and restricting flow, or make some other changes, I’m gonna be the bad guy, “ he said. “It is not fair.”

Chumbley said several complexities of operating the water system are poorly understood by the general public, such as inconsistencies in assessment, monitoring and enforcement, especially in light of climate change and the l worsening drought conditions.

He also said that there is a widespread belief that the system is in “dismay,” and he repeated that the system is “Working and reliable”.

It can be trusted to bring water to those in need, whether for agricultural purposes or for traditional and customary purposes, Chumbley said.

“It’s old, but it’s extremely vital”, he said. “Moving to a 21st century role is good for all of us. This is the only positive direction in which I think we are heading. It’s a 115-year-old sugarcane plantation system, and it’s going to have to change.

Water rights in Hawaii have been a point of contention throughout history.

Sugar plantation operations in Maui resulted in the creation of water distribution systems in the late 1800s and early 1900s that move water by gravity through siphons, tunnels and ditches on miles of land.

While hailed as engineering marvels and proven to be essential for the general public to receive water in modern times, the systems during the plantation days depleted natural streams and rivers, broke the flow of mauka to makai upon which native flora and fauna relied, and took water from native Hawaiians using it for traditional and customary practices, such as kalo cultivation.

In recent decades, advocacy by community groups such as Hui o Na Wai ‘Eha has been critical in establishing state-recognized flow standards that protect the environment and the rights of traditional and customary Hawaiian practices.

Inevitably, relations were strained between stream users such as kuleana tenants and kalo farmers and off-stream users and stream diversions. But the hui and the water company are backing the county’s acquisition of the water distribution system.

“One aspect is that there is so much emotion around it, isn’t there? “ said Chumbley. “From community activists and kalo producers to agricultural users and the general public. There is a lot of misinformation and social media has not improved the situation at all. This made the situation much worse.

To view the commission’s final decision and order, go to https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/cwrm/newsevents/cch/cch-ma15-01/.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be contacted at [email protected]

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