Major developments on the water beat.
Our landblog reports:
In what is being hailed as a major victory for environmental and Native Hawaiian groups, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the state water commission had failed to give proper consideration to the rights of Native Hawaiians and the public when it comes to restoring river and stream levels on Maui.
Much of the water in four waterways - Waihee River, Waiehu, Iao and Waikapu - is being diverted for commercial purposes.
The court has sent the case back to the water commission.
Justices said that the commission needed to further pursue alternatives to draining the streams, such as using non-potable wells and recycled wastewater.
From an Earthjustice press release:
Maui community groups Hui o Nä Wai ‘Ehä and Maui Tomorrow Foundation, represented by Earthjustice, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs appealed in July 2010. A majority of the commission issued the decision over the dissent of former Commissioner Lawrence Miike, who sat as hearings officer over the entire case. The commission majority reversed Miike’s recommendations to restore around half of the approximately 70 million gallons a day (mgd) diverted, and instead restored only 12.5 mgd and left two of the four streams dry.
“When I look at ‘Ïao and Waikapü Streams, they’re bone-dry, nothing but skeletal remains,” said Rose Marie Hoʻoululähui Lindsey Duey of Hui o Nä Wai ‘Ehä. “The supreme court’s decision restores my hope that the law stands for something, and that each of Na Wai ʻEhaʻs four streams will flow like justice from mauka (mountain) to makai (ocean).”
Nä Wai ‘Ehä include two of the largest rivers on Maui, Waihe‘e and ‘Ïao, and are legendary in Native Hawaiian culture for traditionally supporting a rich native aquatic ecosystem and the largest continuous area of wetland kalo or taro fields in the Hawaiian Islands. Two private companies divert the streams: Wailuku Water Company, the remnant of the former Wailuku Sugar plantation; and sugar plantation Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar. Wailuku Sugar sold all its former farmlands for development and is now pursuing the business of selling the diverted stream water to the public.
The community groups have sought to enforce the legal mandates the Hawai‘i Supreme Court established in its landmark Waiähole decision in 2000, in which the court strongly reaffirmed that flowing streams are a public trust. As in this case, the Waiähole case involved local community groups fighting for lasting protection for rivers and streams in the face of private companies continuing plantation-era diversions for industrial agriculture and future urban development.
From Earthjustice’s website: