Maui News

East Maui Farmers Rally Against Continued Stream Diversion

February 16, 2016, 2:21 PM HST
* Updated February 17, 6:19 AM
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Lo‘i Kalo (taro patch) on the penninsula in Ke‘anae known as the lowlands. The near ocean lo‘i makes for a distinct flavor of kalo.

Lo‘i Kalo (taro patch) on the penninsula in Ke‘anae known as the lowlands. The near ocean lo‘i makes for a distinct flavor of kalo.

A legal battle over water rights that has been brewing for over a decade in the courts and has a century old beginning will surface for discussion before a Hawaiʻi State Senate legislative committee tomorrow.

Senate Bill 3001 would permit a continuation of water diversions to Alexander & Baldwin for their soon to be defunct sugar cane operations on Maui.

Residents of the Keʻanae Lowlands are in opposition to the bill and are gathering at the Oʻahu State capitol tomorrow for the meeting, which starts at 2:45 p.m.

Opponents to the bill say, “residents and farmers have been pleading for the return of water to their region so that farming can return to its abundant past and so that the marine life can begin to be restored.”

Area residents report that the in-stream flow “is minimal to zero” and say it has been “deficient” due to the water diversion. Opponents say the diversions have resulted in “empty stream beds and a lifeless shoreline.”

Ke‘anae lowlands and Wailua Nui farmers clean distant ancient ditches in efforts to bring more water to the rural community kalo (taro) farming fields.

Ke‘anae lowlands and Wailua Nui farmers clean distant ancient ditches in efforts to bring more water to the rural community kalo (taro) farming fields.

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SB3001 was introduced last week but was deferred by the Water, Land and Agriculture Committee due to ongoing discussion.

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It seeks to change HRS 171 to allow for the holdover permits and comes after a Jan. 8, 2016 Circuit Court ruling that looked into the proper usage of temporary permits.

In 2000, when A&Bʻs 100 year lease ended, a public hearing was held. A&B requested a continuance of water permit for their respective uses.

At the time, it was decided that A&B would be put on a month-to-month permit basis until the Commission on Water Resources Management could have time to make a decision.

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Opponents have launched an online petition on the website change.org, asking for Senator Mike Gabbard, Chair of the Water Land and Agriculture Committee to oppose SB3001 by “returning watershed vitality” and by supporting farmers of the area.

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