Haiku and Paia residents complained to the Board of Water Supply (BWS) this week that they haven’t been consulted on the Maui Island Water Use and Development Plan (WUDP) that includes a “strategy” to drill deep wells in the Haiku aquifer. The wells would send millions of gallons of water a day to central and south Maui for those areas’ burgeoning future water needs. Residents want the Maui County Council to defer a vote on adopting the plan, currently scheduled for September 11, so that an online meeting focused on the Haiku and Paia communities can be held. The Council has until December to approve the plan.
“Most people where I live in the Koʻolau region are not aware that the WUDP appears to offer a major strategy of reducing pumping of the Iao Aquifer from 16 mgd (million gallons a day) to 9 mgd, and spending nearly $100 million to drill a bunch of wells in Haiku because there is hope that there are 24 mgd of water available there,” Maui water expert Lucienne de Naie said in testimony provided on behalf of Maui Tomorrow.
The Haiku well strategy is being put forward even though no geologic, environmental or stream use studies have been done on the Haiku aquifer, according to Jeffrey Parker, Director of the Coalition to Protect East Maui Water Resources.
“The WUDP clearly anticipates the removal of Haiku water and sending it to central and south Maui to ‘meet planned growth,’” Parker said in written testimony. “Yet the residents of Haiku have never been consulted. No public meetings have been held with Haiku residents…”
Other testifiers said they want a new meeting to ask the County questions about its plans for Haiku’s water resources, including stream restoration and water meters.
The WUDP, which hasn’t been updated for almost 30 years, has been moving through the county Department of Water Supply (DWS) for the past five years. However, most early DWS meetings took place in 2016, when Alexander & Baldwin was still growing sugar cane on land that has since been purchased by Mahi Pono, a collaboration between a California agricultural investment group and a Canadian pension fund. Mahi Pono’s agricultural plans and water needs have changed over the past year and remain unclear.
The plan was presented to the BWS in 2017, which spent a year reviewing it. In late 2018, the BWS held five public meetings to get public input on the plan—in Lahaina, Kihei, Wailuku, Hana and Pukalani. However, no meetings were held in Haiku–the only new location recommended in the WUDP as a source of future water supply for development in south and central Maui.
“Do not use this pandemic as a way to slide this vote through without any manaʻo from the community,” Francine “Aunty Mopsy” Aarona told the board. “If this is a plan for all of us, the people of Paia and Haiku need to be a part of this conversation before final decisions are made.”
Several BWS members expressed disappointment that the board had received no feedback from a 19-page letter sent to the water department last January. The letter listed almost 90 items that it wanted the WUDP to address in its 1,200 page report before giving its approval. Only three of those items were specifically incorporated into the final draft. The BWS still has not formally approved the plan.
At its September 1st meeting, the BWS voted to send a letter to the County Council and the State Water Commission stating that it had not approved the WUDP. The letter provided a link to the public testimony from the meeting, along with a recommendation for “further input from the community before final action is taken on the plan.”
Maui Tomorrow Foundation urges the Maui County Council to defer its final vote on the Water Use and Development Plan until there is specific outreach to the Haiku/Paia Community regarding the transfer of water from Haiku to south and central Maui.
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Image courtesy Maui Tomorrow