Maui residents say A&B is wasting water its diverting from streams

Updated: Nov. 12, 2017 at 5:30 PM HST
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MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some Maui residents say a big corporation is wasting water that it's diverting from streams and that the state needs to take action.

In a video taken last Oct., water is seen overflowing into a field from the New Hamakua Ditch in Huelo.

Lucienne De Naie, president of Maui Tomorrow Foundation and an east Maui resident, says it's evidence that shows Alexander & Baldwin is wasting the precious resource.

"They are saying they're not diverting much, but they're already diverting too much more than they need," De Naie said.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources voted unanimously Thursday to continue allowing Alexander & Baldwin to divert up to 80 million gallons of water a day, for the next year.

For decades, the company has been diverting millions of gallons of water from East Maui streams for use in sugar cane agriculture.

When it closed the HC&S plantation last year, A&B said the amount of water it diverted dropped from 165 million gallons to 20 million gallons per day and that 95% of taro streams have already been restored.

"There is only about six million gallons used by the County for domestic use, so where is all the rest of this water going?" said Marti Townsend, Sierra Club of Hawaii director.

According to A&B, water not used remains in the East Maui streams and watershed.

De Naie says that's hard to believe when the Hanehoi Stream in Huelo, on which about 100 residents rely on, has been dry since May.

"That's just one instance, there are other places in east Maui system where water that used to be diverted is no long being diverted and it's just being dumped on a road and made muddy," De Naie said.

A&B denies wasting water and says the amount it currently diverts is needed to meet future demands including diversified agriculture operations in Central Maui.

The company says five other streams are at near full restoration, it's just waiting for final construction permits, but De Naie says A&B is dragging its feet and wants the state fund a staff position that will monitor stream diversions.

"It's a symptom that we're not respecting the water and not managing the water," she said. "We're just seeing it as something that is very inexpensive so if we can't get around to fixing something that's wasting water, it doesn't matter because its not costing us very much."

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