HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a move that's angering environmentalists, state House and Senate conferees on Friday passed an amended version of a controversial Maui water rights measure that gives Alexander & Baldwin an extension of up to three years on its water permit or until its pending application is resolved.
The original House Bill 2501 covered A&B, but a subsequent version excluded the company. The compromise measure once again includes the business. As many as 10 other water permit holders statewide may also be affected.
State Rep. Ryan Yamane, (D, Mililani-Waikele), co-sponsored the bill after hearing from other water users worried about potential impacts on permits.
"For us, it's more than just the issue of right and wrong of streams, which is important, but it's also an issue of how do we do this to help the people of Maui and the people of other counties as well as our farmers and cattlemen that are going to be impacted if this bill doesn't move?" he said.
Opponents said the measure allows A&B to get around a court ruling that invalidates four revocable permits that provide for the diversion of millions of gallons of water from East Maui streams.
The approval of the latest version comes two days after the business announced that it plans to permanently restore water to eight taro streams.
"When you make that kind of offer in the context of passing a bill that ultimately undermines the laws that we're trying to uphold, it's giving a little in order to take a lot," said Marti Townsend, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii.
The measure now heads to both houses of the legislature for a final vote. The draft includes a repeal date of June 30, 2019.
The Sierra Club is planning a demonstration outside A&B's Honolulu headquarters on April 26 during a shareholder meeting.