Maui’s mayor wants to buy company that controls water flow to thousands of acres

Maui's new mayor says he's reviving a long talked-about plan to buy a company that controls the water flow to thousands of acres.
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 7:11 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 23, 2023 at 8:25 PM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen says he is reviving a long talked about plan to buy a company that controls the water flow to thousands of acres.

Water users say it would be a major victory — if it happens.

Bissen made the announcement in his State of the County Address this week.

Taro farmers say overall, it’s a win. But, they still have questions.

“Water in this area is truly sacred,” said Hui O Na Wai Eha President Hokuao Pellegrino as he walked through Iao Valley Thursday afternoon.

Pellegrino hopes the county can take over Wailuku Water Company one day but remains cautious.

“This water resource belongs to the people and having it in private hands has always been something that we have always been concerned about with Wailuku Water Company,” Pellegrino said.

“There are a lot of challenges with this system. There are challenges around the infrastructure. It’s old. It’s dilapidated. We’re concerned about the management.”

Wailuku Water Company owns almost nine thousand acres of watershed land in Waihee, Waiehu, Wailuku, and Waikapu – collectively called Na Wai Eha.

The company has been tied up in legal battles for decade for diverting water for off-stream use.

On Tuesday, Bissen announced his administration wants to take over.

“We are speaking with and seeking the acquisition of the Wailuku Water Company,” Bissen said.

Pellegrino said he and others are cautiously optimistic because of so many previously failed attempts.

“Four administrations prior to Mayor Bissen has have not been able to work through this acquisition. What are those challenges?” he said. “Work with the community because I think a lot of these challenges could potentially be resolved with community input.”

The County and Wailuku Water Company are still in negotiations, so county officials say the cost and timeline details aren’t available at the moment.

Hawaii News Now reached out to Wailuku Water Company President Avery Chumbley for more information. He said he is unable to make public comments on the matter at this time.

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