Ruling cuts Waiahole Ditch water flow
Resources going to Leeward uses will be returned to streams
There will be less Windward stream water diverted for Leeward uses under a state commission's decision.
The state Commission on Water Resource Management revised Thursday its allocation of water from the Waiahole Ditch in response to a Hawaii Supreme Court order. The high court has twice ordered the commission to reconsider its allocations and the amount of water needed to support the ecology and community uses of the Windward streams.
The commission majority voted to continue a permit for an apparently stalled golf course development in Makakilo, one of two controversial decisions that had two state department heads on the commission dissenting from the majority.
The 25-mile system of tunnels from Kahana Valley to Kunia was built in 1913 to irrigate sugar plantations on the dry Leeward and Central Oahu plains. After the sugar industry shut down in the early 1990s, the state assumed administration of the water resource.
The decision provides that 12 million of the daily 27 million-gallon flow will be returned to four Windward streams, an increase over the 9.9 million gallons previously designated as necessary to sustain the streams.
It allows for 12.57 million gallons to go to Leeward farms, golf courses and a cemetery. Campbell Estate, one of the largest landowners, reduced its application by more than 1 million gallons a day.
The commission granted a water use permit to every applicant that sought one. For the first time it required Agribusiness Development Corp., which operates Waiahole Ditch, to obtain a permit for the 2 million gallons a day of water leaked or lost from the aging system.
Kapua Sproat, attorney with Earthjustice, said there is good news in the increased stream volumes, but the decision is still disappointing to Windward farmers and native Hawaiian and community organizations who have challenged the state in court since its first water use allocation in 1997. The Windward parties will discuss whether to appeal for a third time, she said.
Still at issue is the commission's decision to hold 2.2 million gallons a day as an unallocated resource potentially available to future developers, she said. It was approved by four of the six commission members.
Two state department heads on the commission voted against reserving that water.
"The notion of a buffer freely available for unidentified off-stream uses ... offends the public trust and the spirit of the in-stream use protection scheme," said Peter Young, chairman of the commission and of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources. Dr. Chiyome Fukino, state health director, concurred with Young's dissenting report.
The Windward parties had asked the commission to deny a water use permit to Pu'u Makakilo Inc., arguing that the company suspended development of a golf course and has razed its clubhouse.
The commission approved a permit for 750,000 gallons a day for Pu'u Makakilo Inc. Young wrote in his dissenting opinion that he agreed with the majority in approving the company's application. But he wrote, "Given the apparent changed circumstances relating to their proposed golf course development, and under our continuing duty to the public trust, I would prefer that PMI be requested to appear before this commission to explain their need for Waiahole Ditch water." Fukino concurred.