The Hawaii Supreme Court vacated Wednesday a state Commission on Water Resource Management ruling in a dispute over surface waters the so-called Na Wai Eha, or four great waters of Maui.
The state Supreme Court justices ruled that members of the commission erred in their June 2010 ruling on the waters of Waihee River and Waiehu, Iao and Waikapu streams.
The commission had amended in-stream flow standards for two of the four streams and substantially retained the existing standards for the other two streams as measured above mauka diversions.
Hui O Na Wai Eha, Maui Tomorrow Foundation and the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs appealed, arguing that the commission erred in balancing in-stream and non-in-stream uses and the in-stream flow standards therefore did not properly protect traditional and customary Native Hawaiian rights, appurtenant water rights and the public trust. The appellants also contest the commission's treatment of water diversions.
The high court concluded that the water commission erred in several respects:
-- The panel didn't properly consider the affect of its decision on customary Native Hawaiian practices in Na Wai Eha and the feasibility of protecting the affected practices.
-- The commission's analysis of in-stream uses was incomplete because it focused on fish species that migrate from streams to the ocean during their life cycle and "did not fully consider other in-stream uses."
-- The panel erred in its consideration of alternative water sources and its calculation of diverting parties' acreage and reasonable system losses.
The justices remanded the case back to the water commission "for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."