Gift of Land More Trouble Than Its Worth?

WAHIAWA (KHNL) -- They say, never look a gift horse in the mouth. But, what if the gift might be more trouble than it's worth? That's exactly what one state agency is trying to figure out before they agree to take over the privately owned Wahiawa irrigation system.

The area "up for grabs" spans around 30 miles, and includes Lake Wilson. It's a part of a complex irrigation system with quite a few private owners. The Agribusiness Development Corporation, a state agency, commissioned a study to find out the pros and cons of taking over the area.

"That's exactly what we're looking for today in the study. I think we need to see what the study says to see if the problems are solvable," said Tina Rasmussen, of the Agribusiness Development Corporation.

They're concerns about potential liabilities of the dam, and management costs involved. But, they also see a benefit for the farmers they serve, in keeping the land agricultural.

"The benefits clearly will be the ag lands that will be serviced by this water system the North Shore desperately need to have a reliable source of water."

The irrigation system is made up primarily of open, unlined ditches, many of which are in serious need of repairs.

Immediate repairs are estimated at more than 4-million dollars, of which private owner "Dole" is currently completing 2-million.

Hydrogeologist Jennifer Hernando compiled much of the independent assessment.

"I think having the state take over would be a good thing because it would put it in the public trust and ensure agricultural viability on the North Shore. Some of the drawbacks would be the cost. It's an old system, it does need a lot of maintenance."

The study reveals annual maintenance and management of the area is estimated to cost nearly $800,000.