Groups, companies settle Maui water dispute

Published On: Apr 22 2014 10:08:56 AM HST

Native Hawaiian and environmental groups are settling a decade-long dispute with Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar and Wailuku Water Co. over the diversion of water from four Maui streams.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said Monday the state attorney general and the state Commission on Water Resource Management reviewed and approved the agreement.

Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake says his clients Hui o Na Wai Eha and the Maui Tomorrow Foundation are very happy with the resolution.  He says water will be flowing in four Na Wai Eha streams 10 years after litigation began and more than a century after diversions began drying them out.

Moriwake says the settlement establishes how much water should flow in the streams.  It doesn't establish how much water the companies may divert.

"We are extremely pleased with this historic agreement," said Office of Hawaiian Affairs CEO Kamana'opono Crabbe.  "It provides important validation for our efforts to ensure mauka to makai stream flow when possible and protection of Native Hawaiian traditional and customary practices."

After a lengthy contested case hearing in late 2007 and early 2008, the Water Commission restored water only to Waihe'e River and Waiehu Stream, and failed to ensure that water benefits everyone, including community members below the diversions in 'Iao and Waikapu, and not just corporate interests.

The Community Groups and OHA appealed and, in August 2012, the Hawaii Supreme Court agreed with them and sent the case back to the Water Commission with instructions to consider six issues, including the feasibility of protecting traditional and customary native Hawaiian rights as well as practices.   On the eve of the "remand" to follow up on those instructions, the two sides in the case reached an agreement to restore more water to the 'Iao Stream and the Waikapu Stream.


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