Maui News

Court Cuts A&B’s Watertake from East Maui While Contested Case Hearing is Underway

August 4, 2021, 1:05 PM HST
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Water diversion in East Maui, Hana. Maui Now photo.

The Environmental Court has temporarily limited the amount of water that Alexander & Baldwin and East Maui Irrigation can take from East Maui to an average of about 25 million gallons of water per day, according to stream advocates. The court authorized the reduced diversion while a contested case hearing is conducted.

Representatives with the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi say this more closely matches actual water use based on reports to the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

“This is a big deal. We are very pleased that the court reviewed all of the evidence and made a thoughtful determination that serves the legitimate water needs of the community and protects the health of these streams,” said David Kimo Frankel, attorney for the Sierra Club. “This is a fair and balanced decision, a true win-win-win all the way around.” 

In December 2018, farming company, Mahi Pono had agreed to pay A&B $62 million for half ownership of East Maui Irrigation and guaranteed access to 30 million gallons of water daily for eight years.

“Just as upcountry Maui residents are being asked to conserve water right now, the court recognized that Mahi Pono also must do all that it can to reduce waste in its own water usage,” said Marti Townsend, director for the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi. 

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Mahi Pono responded to Maui Now’s request for comment saying the company did not have a statement to offer at this time. A&B did not reply to our request for comment on the development.

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In November 2020, the Board of Land and Natural Resources authorized Alexander & Baldwin and Mahi Pono, through their shared corporation called East Maui Irrigation Company, to continue diverting up to 45 million gallons of water daily from dozens of east Maui’s streams. The Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi argued that the companies did not offer evidence to support the need to continue its take of water at such levels.

The Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi says that “by authorizing only 25 MGD to be diverted means the needs of Maui’s residents and farmers, as well as the stream ecosystem, will be met, but it also means the terms of the contract between A&B and Mahi Pono for the East Maui Irrigation Company are now in question.” 

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