OHA TO APPEAL STATE COMMISSION ON WATER RESOURCE MANAGEMENT’S DECISION ON NÄ WAI ‘EHÄ
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 12, 2010
HONOLULU – The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Board of Trustees announced today, they have filed an appeal of the State Commission on Water Resource Management’s final decision on water flow regarding four west Maui streams because it does not adequately protect and preserve the rights of the community, particularly traditional and customary practitioners. The decision is also in contrast to the commission’s own Hearing Officer’s recommendation. The four west Maui streams; Waihe‘e, Waiehu, ‘Ïao and Waikapü – together are known as Nā Wai ‘Ehā or “The Four Great Waters.”
There is a long history of Native Hawaiian custom and use of the Nä Wai ‘Ehä streams and river. These waters once supported the largest contiguous area of kalo cultivation in Hawai‘i and one of Hawai‘i’s largest populations. Despite traditional and customary practitioners’ rights to water for kalo cultivation and gathering, the Commission’s decision failed to restore sufficient water for these purposes. If the Commission has the final say every drop of water from ‘Ïao and Waikapü will continue to be diverted by the century old plantation ditch system.
The Commission’s final decision and order announced on June 10, 2010 deviated substantially from Commission Hearing Officer Dr. Lawrence Miike’s April 9, 2009 proposed decision and order:
Proposed Decision Final Decision Waihe‘e River 14 mgd 10 mgd Waiehu Stream 3.5 mgd 2.5 mgd ‘Īao Stream 13 mgd – Waikapū Stream 4 mgd – TOTAL 34.5 mgd 12.5 mg
OHA Chairperson Haunani Apoliona added: “OHA is disappointed that the rights of the community, particularly traditional and customary practitioners were not adequately protected by the Commission’s final decision. Water is a public trust resource and Hawai‘i’s constitution and Water Code mandates that public trust uses such as traditional and customary practices have priority and must be protected to the greatest extent practicable. Adequate flow standards are essential to protect the streams and communities who depend on the water to survive. We hope this appeal may bring about a fairer distribution of water use for all.”
OHA has been working with Earthjustice, Maui community groups and the County of Maui Department of Water Supply to advocate for restoration of mauka to makai stream flows in order to revive native stream life and support traditional and customary practices for current and future generations. “We applaud OHA for steadfastly standing for the rights of Native Hawaiians and the public to water and Earthjustice looks forward to standing side by side with OHA in upholding those rights in court,” said Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake.
OHA believes its participation in the Nä Wai ‘Ehä case is beneficial to the Native Hawaiian and larger communities. Restoration of mauka to makai stream flows in Nä Wai ‘Ehä would improve the recharge to the ‘Ïao aquifer which provides drinking water for Central Maui, support native stream life, and ensure traditional and customary Native Hawaiian rights.
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