Maui News

Public Meetings Set for A&B Water Lease

February 21, 2017, 10:38 AM HST
* Updated February 21, 10:41 AM
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Public scoping meetings for Alexander & Baldwin’s application to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources for a 30-year lease (holdover water permits) for water from streams in Nahiku, Keanae and Huelo are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 22 and 23, at two different locations on Maui.

The meetings are set for 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday in Maui Electric Company’s community meeting room and 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Ha‘ikū Community Center.

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Rainbow over sugar cane. Image: Andrew Shoemaker

“The courts already ruled that corporate ownership of public resources was illegal,” said Rep. Kaniela Ing. “So A&B, through their massive political muscle, went ahead and changed the law after the fact. People must stand up and speak out against this imbalance of power.”

“This is an emotional issue, but there are clear economic arguments on the side of the people,” Rep. Ing continued. “A&B hogs over half of the fresh water on Maui, for what, this past decade, has been less than 1% of the county’s economic activity.

“Unlike small farmers, who must do more with less water to survive, A&B has little incentive to innovate,” said Rep. Ing. “Rather, they have every incentive to land-bank off of agriculture tax breaks, sell to the highest bidding developer, while exploiting these water permits to maximize profits. It’s not that anyone’s evil; A&B is simply fulfilling its fiduciary duty to its primarily mainland shareholders.

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“This is why we cannot continue to allow a single for-profit corporation to monopolize our water source,” added Rep. Ing.

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Ing has an alternative and has introduced legislation (HB446) to start to bring about change.

“Maui’s agricultural future should be centered around leasing small plots to small, innovative farmers and allowing shared equipment though co-owned ag parks,” Rep. Ing said. “After generations of Big 5 rule, we finally have an opportunity to democratize our plantation and set an example of regenerative agriculture and self-sustainability for the world.”

The lease would be for the continued “right, privilege and authority to enter and go upon” state watershed lands for the “purpose of developing, diverting, transporting and using government-owned waters” through East Maui Irrigation Co.’s aqueduct system. EMI is an A&B subsidiary.

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HC&S reported that it needs approximately 115 million gallons of water per day for its diversified agriculture plans on about 27,000 acres of its former 36,000 acres of sugar lands.

HC&S’ plans include pastures, orchards, bioenergy crops, an agricultural park and coffee.

Critics maintain that the company has not shown sufficient plans to substantiate its claims for East Maui surface water and that it has not explored ways to reduce its water intake.

Parties in the contested case are: HC&S, the county Department of Water Supply, Maui Tomorrow Foundation and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., which represents Na Moku Aupuni O Ko‘olau Hui, Lurlyn Scott and Sanford Kekahuna.

To view the Environmental Notice, go online.

Written public comments, due March 10, can be sent to consultant Wilson Okamoto Corp., Attn: Earl Matsukawa, 1907 S. Beretania St., Ste. 400, Honolulu 96826.

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