Saturday, May 26, 2001

HC&S denied
30-year water

The state board keeps the
plantation on a month-to-month
basis for using Maui's water

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> The state Board of Land and Natural Resources has put the largest sugar plantation in Hawaii on a month-to-month license to take water from East Maui, despite the company's request to renew a long-term agreement.

Alexander & Baldwin Inc. wanted to begin the process of seeking 30-year licenses or at least to renew its one-year revocable agreements on behalf of its 37,000-acre Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.

The board deferred the request, pending the outcome of a contested case hearing between the firm and Hawaiian groups who say more information is needed to determine the impact of the diversions on taro farms and wildlife in streams.

"We're disappointed because we're looking for long-term commitments of the water supply for HC&S," said Meredith Ching, a vice president with the firm.

Some 150 people attended the public hearing -- many, Hawaiian Commercial employees who spoke in favor of the long-term diversion. Supporters noted that the company, which employs 1,000 people, was one of the few sugar companies left in Hawaii.

"I hope what you consider is the plight of all farmers when you make the decision," said Carl Alexander, a manager with Hawaiian Commercial.

Maui Hotel Association Executive Director Terryl Vencl said her organization supported Alexander & Baldwin, whose green sugar-cane fields have had a positive visual impact on tourism.

The firm has been on one-year revocable licenses since 1986, when the state began reviewing the water code and trying to set the level of diversions based on stream flow.

The four water licenses affect about 54 miles of ditches owned by the firm from Nahiku to Honopu, and 40 streams with 400 registered diversions.

The firm pays some $13,000 a month to the state for the four water licenses.

The ditch system, with a carrying capacity of 195 million gallons a day, is used to provide water to the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., Kula farmers and the county serving thousands of households from Haiku to Kanaio.

The environmental group Maui Tomorrow said it was opposed to Alexander & Baldwin conducting its own environmental study about the water diversions.

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