Molokai residents protest 178% rate hike on their water bills

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Molokai residents, outraged over the 178% rate hike on their water bills, flew to Oahu Thursday.

They marched into Governor Linda Lingle's office, protesting an increase they call unprecedented and illegal.

They refuse to back down, taking up their bitter battle with Molokai Ranch to the head of state.

"We came from Molokai and a lot of people wanted to hand you this letter that's addressed to the Governor," said Molokai resident Walter Ritte.

The letter asks Governor Linda Lingle to void the Public Utilities Commission's decision. Chopper 8 above Molokai, where last month, the PUC approved a rate hike as a temporary solution to the island's water crisis.

"The people of Molokai cannot afford 178% increase in water rates," said Ritte.

Effective September first, Molokai Public Utilities rates nearly doubled, and rates for Waiola o Molokai customers nearly tripled.

The spike comes after Molokai Ranch threatened to turn off water and sewer services on the island by August 31st, saying it could no longer afford it.

This group says it's all just a profit-making bluff.

"Threaten the state that our health and safety is in jeopardy because they're going to close down and that threat got them the 178% increase without them even asking for it," said Ritte.

"Molokai, we do survive right? Yeah. We do overcome but this is injustice," said Representative Mele Carroll.

Molokai residents say they will sue Molokai Ranch and call on the PUC for a fair and impartial legal process on the rate increases.

The temporary rate hikes are in effect for six months.

The PUC says the intent is to buy time to figure out a permanent solution.