Water panel to hear arguments to return water to 12 streams

The state Commission on Water Resource Management will hear oral arguments Monday on Maui on a hearings officer’s proposal calling for the return of 26 million gallons a day of water to 12 East Maui streams diverted by Alexander & Baldwin.

Parties with exceptions or objections to the proposed findings of fact and decision and order by hearings officer Lawrence Miike may make oral arguments at the meeting beginning at 5 p.m. at the Haiku Community Center.

Each party is allowed 30 minutes with 10 minutes for rebuttal, the commission said.

The contested case process over diversions of water from more than 20 streams by East Maui Irrigation for cultivation of sugar by Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. goes back to 2001. Na Moku Aupuni o Ko’olau, a community of taro farmers, fishermen, hunters and traditional practitioners, represented by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., argues that the diversions by the A&B subsidiaries impact life in the streams, taro growers and other cultural practices and traditions.

Miike was named hearings officer for this proceeding in January 2014 and released his initial recommended findings of fact, conclusions of law and decision and order in January 2016 — without considering the closure of HC&S, which was announced earlier that month. Those recommendations called for restoring 16 mgd to 10 streams.

In March 2016, the Commission on Water Resource Management ordered Miike to reopen the proceeding to consider the impacts of HC&S’ closure, which occurred in December. The water commission will be the final arbiter and set the final stream flows on state land, from which EMI is drawing water.

Miike, a former water commissioner, issued his 174-page amended report July 28, which called for releasing 8.5 mgd more than the initial findings. He called for increasing flows to 12 of the 22 streams diverted by the 140-year-old EMI ditch-tunnel-siphon system.

The proposed decision set maximum water requirements at 83.75 mgd for A&B’s post-sugar diversified agricultural program on 27,000 acres and 16 mgd for the county Department of Water Supply for domestic and agricultural uses. A&B had sought 115 mgd a day.