It’s hard to believe, but the legal machinations and lawsuits over the diversion of water from the Iao, Waihee, Waiehu and Waikapu Streams (collectively known as the “Na Wai ‘Eha,” the “Four Great Waters”) has ended. On Apr. 21, the state Commission on Water Resource Management announced that all parties in the fight over the water–Hui O Na Wai ‘Eha, Maui Tomorrow Foundation, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company, Wailuku Water Company and the Maui County Department of Water Supply–had agreed to a settlement that returns more water to the streams than seen in centuries.
“After decades of disagreement, this is a huge step forward in the history of water on Maui,” Governor Neil Abercrombie said in the water commission’s Apr. 21 press release on the announcement. “There is more to be done, but we look forward to working with all the Parties in the future. The mediator and the Water Commission helped facilitate the conversation, but it was really the people on Maui who made it possible.”
The legal fight over the stream flows may have started in 2004, but the water diversion itself dates back a good deal further, as a Apr. 21 press release from Earthjustice–which represented Hui o Na Wai ‘Eha and Maui Tomorrow Foundation–on the settlement makes clear:
“For over 150 years, Hawaiian Commercial Sugar Company (“HC&S”), a plantation operated by Alexander & Baldwin (“A&B”), and Wailuku Water Company (“WWC”), the remnant of C. Brewer & Co.’s former Wailuku Sugar plantation (collectively, the “Companies”), had drained Na Wai ‘Eha’s waters for private profit. The parties settlement restores flow to all four of the streams, requiring up to around 25 million gallons a day (“MGD”) in the streams at all times.”
According to Earthjustice, the settlement creates a new “interim instream flow standard” for the four streams: up to 10 mgd for Iao Stream and 2.9 mgd for Waikapu Stream, and it keeps the current standards for the Waihee Stream (10 mgd) and Waiehu Stream (2.5 mgd) that were decided in a 2010 Water Commission ruling.
As one of the parties to the settlement, Wailuku Water Co.’s boss Avery Chumbley had only good things to say about the deal in this Maui News story (subscription required), though he did raise the spectre of possible rate hikes on customers. “Yes, there will be a cost to do the implementation, but we’re pleased that it’s a workable solution to a difficult problem,” he told the paper.
Photo of Iao Stream: Forest & Kim Starr/Wikimedia Commons