East Maui Taro Farmers to Take Concerns Directly to A&B
A contingent of East Maui taro farmers and supporters rallied at the State Capitol today seeking the return of water to streams.
Despite their wishes to kill House Bill 2501 SD2, the measure advanced in the Senate today by a vote of 17 to 6, with two abstained.
“Our families are suffering without sufficient water,” said Keauhou Mitchell-Aldan of East Maui in a statement. “Our people followed every rule to get the public’s water returned in the streams, but even though we have won in court multiple times, the water still hasn’t been returned. That is why we are here demanding justice.”
Advocates said they will now take their concerns “directly to Alexander & Baldwin,” according to a press release issued this afternoon by leaders of the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi, who have been backing the Maui contingent.
Organization Director Marti Townsend said, “We are asking them (A&B) to return the public’s water and follow the established rules for requesting use of public stream water.”
She said she hopes that by working with the community, “a more suitable plan,” can be devised for the future of A&B’s former sugar lands.
Bill opponents claim the legislation would circumvent a recent court ruling against A&B’s historic diversion of water from East Maui streams.
“False hope is all I see in the latest amendments to this awful bill,” said Ed Wendt, a lifelong East Maui taro farmer who works the same lands as his ancestors.
More than 7,000 people have signed a petition in opposition to the passage of HB2501 and its companion bill SB3001. More than three hours of testimony was received at two separate committee hearings on the bills, the majority of it in opposition.
Advocates for the restoration of East Maui’s streams plan to hold a demonstration at A&B’s shareholder meeting on Tuesday, April 26, 2016 at 7 a.m. at A&B’s headquarters on Bishop Street in Honolulu. Organizers say they are seeking support “from those who oppose corporate control of public trust resources.”