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View Point

By Robert Berry

Friday, March 31, 2000

Governor, let
our water funds go

Cayetano hasn't released appropriations
for desperately needed Big Island well

OCEAN VIEW -- Ocean View is a community covering an area of about 40 square miles. It is made up of five subdivisions with a population of about 3,500 people with homes on 1- or 3-acre lots. Ocean View is located in the western side of the district of Ka'u, near the border with South Kona, on the Big Island.

In Ocean View we see very little rain, and we are all on rainwater catchment systems. The closest county water well is 16 miles away in Naalehu, where water can be ordered by the tanker truck load for $2.50 to $3 per 100 gallons. A 4,000- gallon tanker load of water costs $120.

During the last several years, the average annual rainfall in Ocean View has been about eight inches. About 20 inches per year is required to meet the minimum needs for families, with nothing left for agricultural needs.

In 1998, the state Legislature appropriated $1.35 million specifically for drilling a water well in Ocean View. This was after several years of hard lobbying by residents. The mayor from our island agreed to handle the money for us without taking a handling fee.

However, it soon became clear that the deck was stacked against us. The governor refused to release the money to us because of "higher priority needs" in the state. Soon thereafter we read in the paper about the governor giving $1 million for a monkey farm in Hilo, and then we read about the governor giving $1.5 million to Waimea for a second water well.

There are state and county laws and statutes that require developers to include water and power infrastructure in their construction plans before they can be approved. Most of these were in force back when the Ocean View subdivisions were developed, but the county did not enforce them.

State and county officials and politicians, from the governor down, all have told us "it didn't happen on my watch," and say that they can do nothing about it.

Ocean View residents are not looking to have water piped into our homes. But if we had a water well in Ocean View so that tanker trucks would have to drive only seven or eight miles to deliver water to a home, instead of 21 or 22, the cost of the water could be cut in half, maybe more. This would still provide water many times more expensive than county water piped into homes, or available to farmers, but it would be a step in the right direction.

There is a serious need for water to fight fires. This is particularly important since our forests are so dry. If a fire ever got started near the western side of Ocean View in the heavy ohia forest during a time when the trade winds are blowing around 25 mph, our fire tanker, which holds only 1,200 gallons, would be used up in minutes.

If such a fire got out of control, it would burn on through Manuka State Park and on into Macnut Farms of America, which is next door to the park.

About 1,000 children are bused to schools outside of Ocean View every weekday because the county says that we cannot have a school because we do not have safe water. A request to open a medical clinic was denied because we do not have safe water. Vegetable and protea farmers here face very unfair competition from farmers using county water at greatly reduced prices.

It is time for the state of Hawaii and Hawaii County to do what is right. Every Third World country village with a population of 50 has a water well. We would like to believe that we do not live in a Third Would country.

Last Wednesday was United Nations' World Water Day. Perhaps we should petition the U.N. to drill a water well in Ocean View.

Robert Berry, a retired engineer, is a resident of Ocean View.

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