Molokai farmers could see higher water rates
The letter from University of Hawaii Agriculture Extension agent Glenn Teves (Star-Bulletin, Sept. 17
), while attempting to cite events in Molokai's history that might or might not be accurate, raises other issues that could lead to a repetition of mistakes that can result in more problems for Molokai farmers.
The Sept. 5 opinion by state Deputy Attorney General Myra Kaichi relating to Molokai Ranch's continued use of the Molokai Irrigation System has raised a number of questions. Perhaps the most critical question being asked on Molokai is whether the effects of having the ranch off the MIS are good for the island.
Coincidentally, the day after the Star-Bulletin's front-page story broke on Sept. 7, the chairwoman and deputy of the state Department of Agriculture met with members of the community at an MIS-related forum, which had already been planned a month earlier. Some of the information shared at this meeting is now being downplayed by individuals who are intent on having the ranch off the MIS, no matter what the consequences.
Molokai's farmers pay the lowest water rates of all users of the state's five irrigation systems, says a top DOA official. While all other users of the state's agricultural systems pay 40 cents per 1,000 gallons, Molokai farmers pay only 33 cents. The DOA said that the reason our farmers pay less is because of the money paid to the state by Molokai Ranch for using the system to transmit its own water.
The ranch currently pays the state $136,500 a year to use the system for transporting water pumped from its own sources. This "grant," as the DOA characterizes it, makes it possible for our homestead farmers and nonhomestead farmers to pay the cheaper rate.
We are waiting patiently for official word from the DOA, advising us exactly what we are supposed to do in light of the AG's opinion. There are obviously many other questions being asked, which might or might not be answered after the state and our attorneys have had a chance to meet. Those who depend on the ranch's water, including the residents of Maunaloa and users in the industrial park of Palaau and in Kalua Koi are anxious to know the answers to the implications as well.
In the meantime it might not hurt to ask ourselves, What could happen if Molokai Ranch is off the MIS? Think about it. Molokai Ranch puts its own water into the system, deposits 10 percent more than it uses and pays $136,500 annually to the state to help operate and maintain the MIS. If Molokai Ranch gets off the MIS, it will reduce the water going in, and other users will have to pay an additional $136,500 each year.
Simply stated, there could be less water in the system, and the water rates for Molokai farmers could well increase if the ranch is off the MIS.
John R. Sabas is general manager of community relations for Molokai Properties Ltd.