water request alive

A request to kill the bid was
denied by the Water Commission

CEO's daughter hired

By Diana Leone

Windward Oahu parties tried yesterday to convince the state Water Commission to deny a Kamehameha Schools request to use 4.2 million gallons of Waiahole Ditch water on a Leeward development.

Kapua Sproat, speaking for EarthJustice, testified yesterday at a state Water Commission hearing.

They failed.

"We're extremely disappointed that the commission didn't grant our petition," said Kapua Sproat, an EarthJustice attorney representing several Windward groups.

The groups alleged that since the proposed use of the water is for nonagricultural use -- landscape and golf course irrigation at the proposed Waiawa by Gentry subdivision -- the commission should hold the applicant responsible for showing why it cannot get the water it needs anywhere else.

Windward parties pointed to alternatives such as Leeward ground water or surface water or reclaiming waste water.

Kamehameha Schools rejected those options as being too costly.

"The (Hawaii) Supreme Court said (in its Waiahole Ditch decision) that the commission should be more than an umpire. They need to step up and take the lead," Sproat said.

Ben Kudo, attorney for Kamehameha Schools, said the application should proceed because "we have not had our day in court" or been allowed to present our case at a public hearing.

Although Sproat must confer with her clients about what they want to do next, she said allowing the application to proceed "has started us down the garden path toward a contested-case hearing."

More than 60 Windward residents and supporters packed the hearing room, and many offered testimony about the importance of keeping water in Windward streams, where it supports fish and other life in streams and in the Kaneohe Bay estuary and makes taro farming and traditional Hawaiian gathering practices more productive. All who testified, except Kamehameha's Kudo, asked that the commission deny the application.

"The closer you can get to full restoration of water in the streams is best for stream and ocean life," said taro farmer Charlie Reppun.

Kudo argued that Kamehameha Schools is not asking for Windward water, but for the 4.2 million gallons of water that enters the ditch daily on its Leeward descent from the Koolau Mountains.

"Kamehameha boldly asserts entitlement to water in the ditch system, but the Supreme Court found that's not the case," regardless of whether it runs over Kamehameha land, Sproat said. "Mr. Kudo and I disagree on correlative rights, but the Supreme Court agrees with me." City Councilman Steve Holmes credited city conservation requirements for keeping water use in Honolulu steady for 10 years despite drought and growth. He asked the Water Commission to take a similar leadership role in seeing that the state's water supply is conserved.

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