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Ola i ka wai! Water is life!

We, the undersigned, oppose bills to amend HRS § 171-58 and extend “holdover” authority for stream diverters like Alexander & Baldwin (A&B), Mahi Pono, and Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) to take excessive amounts of water from our public streams. These efforts continue the unlawful historic practice of water theft, fail to protect Hawaiʻi’s streams and native species, and favor corporate profit over public needs.

Extending “Holdover” Loophole Violates the Public Trust
In Hawaiʻi, water is a public trust resource. The health of native streams and coastal wildlife, traditional customary practices, and domestic water needs are prioritized over private commercial uses of water. “Holdover” revocable permits are a loophole to get around Hawaiʻi’s water protections. These month-to-month permits improperly allow corporations to divert streams for years without knowing how much water flows in the stream, how much water is diverted, or how much water is needed for native ecosystems to thrive.

No Bailout for A&B
Extending “holdover” authority provides a $62 million bailout to A&B, a corporation that pays no income taxes. In its sales agreement with Mahi Pono, A&B promises Mahi Pono access to 30 million gallons of stream water per day from East Maui or A&B will pay Mahi Pono $62 million. For decades, A&B drained many East Maui streams, which prevented taro farming, killed native stream ecosystems, and up-ended communities. East Maui residents sued and won the restoration of several streams in their community. The restoration process is still not complete.

No Blank Check for Mahi Pono
It makes no sense that the new owners of A&B’s Central Maui lands be authorized to take the people’s water from East Maui streams when it has not explained how the water will be used. Publish a farm plan and we can assess how much water may be needed.

No Draining streams for electricity
Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative diverts most of the culturally significant waters of Waiʻaleʻale to produce a mere 1% of its electricity. This is not sustainable energy. KIUC has had 15 years and already one contested case hearing to fix its abuse of temporary permits for this clearly permanent use of stream water, and yet the abuse continues to this day.

We support improved management of public trust resources and increased accountability:
We believe it outrageous and a violation of the public trust to continue wholesale dispositions of water in the absence of accurate data. For 15 years, both A&B and KIUC have dragged their feet on Environmental Impact Statements. Without knowing the impact of these diversions, DLNR continues to allow these companies to divert Hawaiʻi’s streams at almost no cost to them.

We support shorter-term leases and a valuation which more closely approximates market rates:
The practice of encumbering public trust resources for decades’ long commercial uses at a fraction of a penny per millions of gallons should be abolished. The lack of stewardship for the thousands of acres in the watersheds of East Maui and Wailua that are encumbered by holdover permits has triggered a critical state of environmental degradation. That is why we support allocating a share of revenues generated by water dispositions for a Forest Stewardship program.

There is enough water for everyone
We support renewable energy and diversified agriculture throughout our islands, but not at the expense of our streams. There is enough water for everyone to prosper, it is just a matter of striking the right balance. Extending this loophole is not the right balance.

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