Lawmakers Consider “Dangerously Low Water Level” of Molokai Irrigation
By Wendy Osher
A dangerously low level of water supply and long range plans for the Moloka’i Irrigation System were the focus of two House Resolutions introduced by Representative Mele Carroll.
Rep. Carroll, whose district includes Moloka’i, introduced the concurrent resolutions saying, “farmers kept telling me that we need to fix the MIS because of its state of disrepair.”
Reports indicate that drought conditions in recent years significantly reduced watershed capacities across the state. On Moloka’i, the testifiers say stored irrigation water supply at the MIS could no longer meet the minimum summer crop demand on the island.
“The MIS water levels have been dangerously low,” said Moloka’i resident Dave Gilliand in written testimony. “The current summer forecast could cause further job restrictions and loss,” he said.
Fellow Moloka’i resident and Hawaiian Homestead farmer, Lynne DeCoite was among those who also testified in support saying, “Throughout the years of farming, we have suffered cutbacks because of drought conditions. We can no longer continue on the course we are going.”
The first House Concurrent Resolution, 207, requests that the Chairperson of the Board of Agriculture convene a task force to develop long range goals and plans for the Moloka’i Irrigation System.
HCR 207 further requests that the task force be comprised of the Chairpersons of the following entities: the Board of Agribusiness Development Corporation, Hawaiian Home Lands Commission, the Board of Education, the Moloka’i Irrigation System Water User Advisory Board and any other person that the Chairperson of the task force deems advisable.
The other resolution, HCR 208, calls for immediate response by the Department of Agriculture to address the dangerously low level of irrigation water supply and improve the agricultural economy on the island of Moloka’i.
The MIS construction was part of a federal and state commitment to Native Hawaiian Homesteaders, and is now maintained and operated by the state Department of Agriculture.
Both HCR 207 and 208 survived during a hearing on Friday, and unanimously passed unamended in the House Committee of Agriculture.
“We’ve always known that Moloka’i has the potential of becoming the bread basket of our state as long as clean, safe water is available and a strategic plan is in place that will sustain the survival of the local farmers and growers especially during times of economic disadvantages and hardships,” said Rep. Carroll.
“This is why these House Concurrent Resolutions 207 and 208 are necessary and need to pass the House and the Senate,” she said.