Hawaii decked
by long drought

Gov. Lingle issues an official
declaration as the state goes
after federal aid for farmers

Gov. Linda Lingle declared a statewide drought yesterday after more than a year of significantly below-normal rainfall and low ground-water levels.

The governor said she hoped the declaration "will elevate everyone's awareness of drought conditions and will facilitate our state's ability to attain federal drought assistance."

Lingle made the announcement after consulting with county mayors and water departments and the Hawaii Drought Council.

Current forecasts indicate that drought conditions are likely to persist through the end of summer.

With the governor's declaration, farmers and ranchers hit especially hard by the dry weather can seek U.S. Bureau of Reclamation grants, said Neal Fujii, state drought coordinator.

Hawaii will seek six emergency grants totaling $170,000, Fujii said. They are:

>> $22,000 for an emergency pump to water cattle at the Kaala Ranch on Oahu's North Shore.
>> $25,000 for emergency portable pasture irrigation for Kaala Ranch and the North Shore Cattle Co.
>> $36,000 for emergency storage tanks at Maui's Ulupalakua Ranch.
>> $20,000 for emergency diesel fuel for Maui County to pump water to its Upcountry water system, which serves homes and farms.
>> $33,000 for emergency assistance to pump water in Molokai's irrigation system, which serves 160 farmers.
>> $23,000 for emergency water conveyance to the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife's Pahole Rare Plant Nursery on Oahu's North Shore.

The Bureau of Reclamation, one of eight agencies of the U.S. Department of Interior, is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, operating 348 reservoirs in Western states. Hawaii became the 18th reclamation state, which entitles it to federal assistance, in 2000.

Hawaii applicants probably will find out by the end of September if they received the grants, Fujii said.

"We agree with her declaration. We've had four to five years of below-normal rainfall," said Donna Kiyosaki, Honolulu Board of Water Supply deputy manager.

The board, the Hawaii Department of Water Supply and the Maui Department of Water Supply are operating under conservation plans, and Big Island Mayor Harry Kim issued a drought proclamation for that island last month.

On Oahu the draught has led to voluntary water conservation measures. The Honolulu Board of Water Supply says residents should limit watering their lawns to Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. Restaurants are encouraged to not serve water unless customers request it, and hotels have been asked to give guests water-saving suggestions.

A statewide drought emergency was last declared for 2000-2002, according to the state Commission on Water Resource Management.

While the islands may get rain if Hurricane Jimena passes south of the state next week as forecast, it will not be enough to recoup the deficit in ground water, Kiyosaki said.

"It's going to take a sustained rainfall to help us through the drought period."


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