Looks like the county gets its Hamakuapoko pipeline after all. On Jan. 10, Judge Joseph Cardoza denied a motion for the County of Maui to stop work on pipelines to the contaminated and highly controversial wells. But he did make clear that the County couldn’t use the water for human consumption and that any new plans for the pipe would need a full environmental assessment.
“The county… will face ruinous financial consequences for stopping work,” county attorney Jane Lovell said. “We are putting the pipe in the ground because it is—in essence—cheaper [than stopping construction].”
Issac Hall, the attorney representing plaintiffs The Coalition to Protect East Maui Water Resources, Hui Alanui o Makena and Mark Sheehan disagreed. “We felt compelled to ask the county to stop work,” Hall said. “The court’s never gotten any evidence, no financial documents, that indicate that [it would be cheaper].”
Judge Cardoza made note of the fact that the county would soon have a new water director. The discrepancy over past agreements began with outgoing director George Tengan last September when he testified in a Board of Water Supply meeting that the county would use the pipelines to tap East Maui water supplies for use in Central Maui sometime in the future.
Hall held that the county was violating the 2003 consent decree by not submitting a new environmental assessment on the matter. Lovell countered that the Tengan quote was taken out of context, and that the county was acting lawfully in completing the construction.
After the court hearing, both sides expressed satisfaction with the judge’s decision.
“I am very pleased that he denied the motion,” Lovell said. “If there are community concerns we would like to address them.”
“I’m happy that he has basically said that no one can use the wells,” Hall said. “They are going to waste money on installing the pipes… but the pipes are not going to be used.”
Judge Cardoza concluded that the defendants would have time to agree to the decision, though if they couldn’t reach an agreement they would need to go back to court. Lovell said the water department was “fully prepared to comply.” MTW