Court rebuffs Molokai
Ranch request for water

WAILUKU >> The Hawaii Supreme Court sent back a state decision to give more water to Molokai Ranch yesterday, saying the request ignored how the withdrawal would affect a prior allocation to native Hawaiians.

The high court told the state Commission on Water Resource Management to reconsider a 1998 decision to allocate an additional 655,928 gallons a day to the ranch.

"It's a huge victory for Hawaiians," said Walter Ritte, who lives on Hawaiian homestead land in Hoolehua near Molokai Airport.

Ritte said several native Hawaiian groups challenged the ranch's request because they were worried about the impact it would have on their water allocations.

He said Hawaiians were also worried that additional water withdrawals would reduce the amount of ground water that goes into the ocean and percolates through and brings air to the reef life.

"They're like little oases on the reef ... creating brackish water for inhabitants," he said.

Jon Van Dyke, an attorney representing the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the court wanted the commission to explain why it had ignored a reservation of 2.9 million gallons a day to the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

Van Dyke said the court's decision places the responsibility on the commission and ranch to show how taking the water would not adversely affect native Hawaiians.

Attorney Alan Oshima, representing Molokai Ranch, said he had not seen the decision, and declined to comment.


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