Na Wai Eha hearings postponed — indefinitely

The Na Wai Eha case hearings, which had been scheduled to begin last week, were postponed for a second time – this time, indefinitely.

Deborah Ward, state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman, said Monday evening that the hearings to determine stream flows for Na Wai Eha, “the Four Great Waters” of Central Maui, have been postponed “to allow the parties to meet and discuss potential avenues of settlement.”

This was the second time scheduled hearings on the issue before the state Commission on Water Resource Management have been postponed. They were supposed to begin last week but an announcement was released prior to the first meeting that the hearings were delayed until Monday “for logistical reasons and with the agreement of the parties.”

There was no announcement of a postponement this time. Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake appeared at the Kahului Community Center on Monday morning and told a handful of would-be attendants that the hearings – which had been scheduled to span several days over the next two weeks – have been postponed “until further notice.”

Moriwake represented Hui o Na Wai Eha and Maui Tomorrow in a 2012 Hawaii Supreme Court case in which the high court ordered the state Commission on Water Resource Management to revisit its 2010 decision to restore only 12.5 million gallons per day to Na Wai Eha – the Waihee, Waikapu, Iao and Waiehu streams – instead of the 34.5 million gallons recommended by the commission’s hearing officer.

The court ruled that the commission erred in its 2010 ruling by not properly considering the effect of its decision on Native Hawaiian practices, by insufficiently analyzing stream uses by flora and fauna, and by not adequately considering alternative water sources.

The hearings scheduled for this month were meant to continue the decadelong dispute over stream-flow standards for Waihee, Waiehu, Iao and Waikapu streams. What is now Wailuku Water Co. turns a profit by diverting the majority of the approximately 60 million gallons per day of water that flow in Maui streams and aquifers and transmitting the water to users like Maui County and Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.

Small farmers, environmental groups and Native Hawaiians have fought to restore mauka-to-makai stream flow since 2004 so that the water from the streams may be used to revive flora and fauna and to allow healthy taro cultivation.

The case hearing had originally been scheduled to begin March 11 but had been postponed to begin Monday and to go until March 28. Officials from Hui o Na Wai Eha, Maui Tomorrow and the state water commission said that they did not know if or when the hearings would resume, and that they had been advised to decline further comment.

When asked Monday morning about the postponement, Moriwake, too, declined to comment, saying, “All we can say right now is that the meetings have been postponed.”