Save our Streams & Kalo Farms

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The State of Hawaii Governor, has signed the water theft bill to legalize A&B current "holdover" permit of public water from East Maui Kalo Farmers, fishermen, gatherers, and residents. TOGETHER WE CAN STOP this illegal WATER THEFT and desecration to our natural resources. Add your signature to this petition demanding the Board of Land & Natural Resources, State of Hawaii to reject illegal water permits, for the protection of East Maui stream ecosystems and taro farms from the mountains to the sea. 

I am a local Ke‘anae, Maui girl who as a child held a bucket for her Papa while he threw his net in the muliwai (stream) to catch fish for our family. I am the same girl that picked invasive snails in the taro patch every evening as a chore and kuleana (responsibility). My name is Kamalani and I am the Grand-daughter of Uncle Harry Mitchell, legendary farmer who fought for the rights of our kupuna (ancestors), family, and community.

In the 1860’s, my Kupuna petitioned King Kalakaua not to allow Henry Baldwin to divert our streams. Mr. Baldwin was given permission as long as he did not hurt the kalo farmers. East Maui farmers have been in endless battle challenging unlawful commercial diversions consisting of ditches, tunnels, pipes, and flumes that stretch for over 50 miles on crown lands from Nahiku to Huelo & beyond.

This water permit calls for an unthinkable legislative reversal of a hard-fought win by East Maui taro farmers and cultural practitioners. Signed by Governor David Ige, this permit allows the State of Hawai‘i to continue the practice of using ‘holdovers” of temporary permits indefinitely. Alexander & Baldwin’s lease application to divert water from 33,000 acres of public lands in East Maui to its central plantation has been pending for twenty years. Nevertheless, A&B and its private parties have received all benefits of a lease award without satisfying any of the requirements, including an environmental assessment.

This water fight has been stressful not only to the residents, and farmers but to our streams ecosystems and marine resources. Diverting up to 450 million gallons per day interrupts the natural flow while diminishing all life from the mountain to the sea including the loss of native stream and shoreline fish. Our limu cannot grow, our shoreline fishes cannot spawn without the mix of fresh and ocean water. This deprives our families and traditional food sources. Most importantly is the threat to loss of culture as streams are so dry, we cannot teach our next generation traditional ways of life.

This fight is by far one of the largest “privately owned” water diversion contested cases in the United States. The kua‘aina of East Maui challenged these unlawful actions before courts and agencies asking simply that the state uphold existing laws and fulfill its trust obligations. Since 2000, A&B has had access to the water and 33,000 acres of state land through four DLNR revocable permits, which are supposed to be for temporary, month-to-month use of state property.

Since 2001, when we the farmers filed their initial challenge, the four permits have been in a “holdover” status with DLNR. In 2001, A&B also applied for a long-term lease, however, no lease has been approved to date, with the department’s board instead renewing the holdover permits annually. On January 8, 2016, Circuit Judge Rhonda Nishimura declared the four A&B permits invalid; saying the company’s continuous, uninterrupted use of public land on a holdover basis for more than a dozen years was not temporary.

The court ruling prompted A&B to begin lobbying legislators, and the company also assisted in writing this bill. HB2501 was passed in their favor. A&B’s latest attempt to reverse and undercut a circuit court order invalidating its continued diversion of billions of gallons of water every year from East Maui. Na Moku Aupuni O Ko`olau Hui, a non-profit organization comprised of residents of the ahupua`a of Ke`anae and Wailuanui, and other native Hawaiian residents of East Maui seek to restore stream-flow to streams diverted for the past 130 years.

East Maui Irrigation ("EMI"), a subsidiary of A&B now operates this system consisting of at least four parallel levels of water ditches that run from east to west across the Ko‘olau, Maui mountain range intersecting streams within the area and diverting stream flow to Central Maui. Although the current average daily water delivery through this system is 160 million gallons daily (mgd), it is capable of capturing and, during storm events, captures as much as 445 mgd. To place this volume in perspective, all domestic water uses on O‘ahu total about 160 mgd.

This system diverts approximately 68 billion gallons of East Maui Stream water a year. While some of the water diverted goes to domestic and other uses, the vast majority irrigates sugar cane in fields in Central Maui owned by Hawai‘i Commercial and Sugar ("HC&S"), another A&B subsidiary. I ask for your kokua (help) in returning life’s most precious resource. This battle is a fight for the Constitutional rights of East Maui Farmers, we are humbly asking to return the water. Crown lands belong to the Hawaiian people, and its resources are being depleted.

Let the water flow naturally, so that our lifestyles, traditions, culture, and natural resources return in abundance. It will take years for our stream life to return and maybe longer for the fish in the sea to begin reproducing once again, but releasing the water is what’s needed to revitalize the land and its fresh water species. Mahalo.

 



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