Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Water for Lanai
golf course pits
dad against son

The 2 politicians differ on using
drinking water to irrigate Koele

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> A private 18-hole golf course on Lanai has become the subject of a turf dispute that pits a retired Maui County Council chairman against his son, who now occupies his father's seat as representative for Lanai.

Retired Council Chairman Goro Hokama opposes a request from Castle & Cooke Resorts LLC to use drinking water from the island's high-level aquifer to irrigate its Koele golf course.

His son Riki, the Council's Budget & Finance Committee chairman, supports the request, with some conditions.

"We already have the facilities there, and we need to keep them viable and competitive as best we can," the younger Hokama said.

A public hearing is scheduled tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Lanai Public Library before the Lanai Planning Commission.

The company's request, requiring an amendment to a county ordinance, is eventually expected to be heard by the Council.

Castle & Cooke, owner of two major resorts on Lanai, wants authorization to use up to 150,000 gallons of potable water daily to irrigate the Experience at Koele golf course.

Company spokeswoman Sheila Donnelly said the island does not produce enough treated sewage to sufficiently irrigate the golf course.

Donnelly said the golf course helps attract visitors to the 102-room Lodge at Koele and was "absolutely critical" to its operation.

The company has had difficulty in the past with keeping the course healthy in the face of drought conditions and had to replace the grass with a more durable variety.

During the reseeding, the resort was able to obtain temporary authorization from the Council in 1996 to use the potable water source for six months.

Goro Hokama said the current request is unnecessary because the company can always obtain a special authorization in the event of an emergency.

He said he is against using the drinking water on Lanai for irrigation, because no one knows the amount of drinking water that can be withdrawn daily without adversely affecting the island's source.

Goro Hokama said that in the early 1990s, the Council authorized development of the resort with the understanding that it would not use drinking water from the aquifer for irrigation.

He said the company has not built sufficient reservoirs for storing the effluent and rain water and has failed to maintain its pumps properly, reducing its output of irrigation water.

Hokama said he was against the Council making a "special section" of the law for the company when it forbids other resorts from using drinking water for irrigation.

Riki Hokama supports the company's request but wants to make sure it fulfills its agreement to have adequate storage and that its use does not adversely affect the drinking supply.

Asked what he thought of his dispute with his dad, Riki Hokama said he felt his goals were the same as his father's and the company's, but they chose different routes toward Lanai's success.

"We've disagreed before in the past, and I'm sure we'll disagree with issues in the future," Riki Hokama said.

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