In a way it’s fitting that Irene Bowie has decided to step down as executive director of Maui Tomorrow and return to the West Coast. When she took on the job as the Maui County’s most preeminent slow growth activist, the biggest issue facing the state was the proposed Hawaii Superferry. Maui Tomorrow under Bowie’s leadership played a critical role in the legal challenges that hobbled the Superferry. And now, years after the company went bankrupt, state officials are talking about bringing some form of inter-island ferry system back to Hawaii.
“Maui Tomorrow has always say that would be great,” Bowie told me on Apr. 13. “Just do it the right way. The vessel would have to be practical. I’d be all for a ferry system, if it could work.”
For Bowie, the recent court victories in the fight over restoring East Maui stream flows represent a welcome culmination of her work on Maui. “We met every day through March on it. I think there’s going to be a good decision in the fall,” she said. “I’d come back in the fall to celebrate a good decision.”
But whoever decides to further her work will inherit a lot of work. Bowie outlined some of what faces her successor with a series of questions:
Is the proposed merger of NextEra and Hawaiian Electric feasible? What will it mean for consumers?
What’s next with the proposed Oahu-Maui undersea power cable?
Can Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar be prodded into farming with more sustainable ag processes?
Will Anaergia’s proposed waste-to-energy facility do what county officials promise it will?
Will the County of Maui as a whole become more transparent?
“Water will continue to be a huge issue,” Bowie told me. “Probably the primary issue. I wish we could have gone further on water reuse.”
Bowie said she’ll continue to run Maui Tomorrow while the organization’s board searches for a successor (a process she said should wrap up in May). And she had this advice for whoever decides to take over: “Develop a thick skin. You’re certainly not going to be the darling of a lot of people in the community, but you’ll be doing important work.”