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Decision on Maui streams deferred


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POSTED: Friday, December 18, 2009

After enduring two days of hearings to set flow standards for 19 East Maui Streams, the state Commission on Water Resource Management deferred its decision by 90 days.

Commissioners say they need more time to consider a staff recommendation to restore some water to Makipipi Stream but keep diversions at another 18 out of 19 East Maui streams. The dialogue follows an earlier decision to return 12.5 million gallons of water to eight out of 27 streams.

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. (HC&S), the state's last sugar plantation, has said that more water diversions could shutter its business, which has long used diverted waters to support operations.

At the same time, kuleana land owners and environmentalists represented by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. and Maui Tomorrow have said continued diversion hurts the natural balance. Both sides were disappointed with yesterday's outcome.

HC&S General Manager Chris Benjamin said the delay creates challenges for the company, which must convince its board of directors at the January meeting to stay open even in the midst of excessive losses.

“;We were disappointed with the deferral, but we think that they recognize the importance of this decision to HC&S,”; Benjamin said.

Hopefully, commissioners will use staff recommendation as a base line while preserving water in the summer months, he said.

“;If they need more water, they should take it in the winter,”; Benjamin said.

Getting commissioners to ask more questions is a step in the right direction, said Camille Kalama, Native Hawaiian Corp. attorney.

“;There would be enough water if the county and its largest water users fix their leaks and ensure that their usage is not wasteful,”; Kalama said.