Molokai seeks help in water shutdown
WAILUKU » Molokai Ranch plans to shut down its water and waste-water systems to some 1,200 customers by the end of August.
But Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares and some county and state lawmakers have asked Gov. Linda Lingle to intervene to make sure the systems in West Molokai remain operating.
Since Moloka'i Ranch is not operating anymore, its water and sewer services for about 1,200 residents will be ceased.
Molokai Ranch has notified the state Public Utilities Commission that it would cease operations of its water and waste-water systems by the end of August unless a government entity or private company assumes responsibility.
The ranch, owned by the Singapore-based Guoco Leisure, provides water to some 1,200 customers in West Molokai, including houses and businesses at the Kaluakoi Resort and Maunaloa town.
The ranch, citing resistance and delays in obtaining permits for its 200-lot luxury development at Laau, shut down its cattle and resort operations in early April, including its 22-room lodge, 40 tent bungalows and the only 18-hole golf course and movie theater on the island.
In a May 27 letter, Tavares asked Lingle to use all her powers and the state agencies to provide these services or to find a private operator to continue operations on its behalf.
"Please do not allow Molokai Ranch to jeopardize the public health and well-being of the people of Molokai by discontinuing their privately operated water and waste-water services," Tavares said. "The Molokai community needs assurances from the state that you will not allow Molokai Ranch to walk away from its responsibilities."
Tavares said the ranch has an obligation to provide these services or to find a private operator to continue operations on its behalf.
Tavares said taking on the operation of Molokai Ranch's systems is well beyond the capability of the county.
The mayor said she has asked her employees to try conducting an inventory and assessment of the affected systems.
In a May 30 letter, ranch official Peter Nicholas said with the closing of the businesses, its water and sewage firms do not have the funds necessary to cover their operating costs.
Nicholas said the ranch also does not have the funds to reapply for a water permit to operate a freshwater well, as required in a recent Supreme Court decision.
Nicholas said the ranch met with the PUC on March 24 to inform it that water and waste-water services would be provided only for a limited time.
Nicholas said since the March 24 meeting, ranch officials met with resident associations, Tavares and state representatives but have been unsuccessful in transferring operations and assets for the water and sewage.
"There is an obvious reluctance of those parties to take on the litigation with respect to water allocations and the other financial burdens associated with the operation," Nicholas said.
Barry Fukunaga, Lingle's chief of staff, said the governor is concerned about the situation and recognizes there are a number of people affected if the service is interrupted.
"We're not turning our back on the county by no means," Fukunaga said.
But Fukunaga said Lingle knows waste-water and drinking-water systems are generally the counties' responsibility.
He said the counties have the expertise to operate these systems and that the state does not usually get involved in their operations.