The Maui County Council gave initial approval Friday to a measure that would put an end to the waiting list for Upcountry water meters.
The bill passed unanimously with council members Riki Hokama and Mike Victorino excused.
If approved on second reading Dec. 7, the measure will set a last day to sign up for the waiting list, established in 1994 due to an assessment at the time that showed insufficient water to take on new users Upcountry. As of June 30, the list included nearly 1,500 applicants.
Then the water department will offer meters only to those on the priority list in the order that they appear on the list.
It will take two to three years to go through the list, said Council Member Gladys Baisa, who holds the Upcountry residency seat and is on the list.
The bill would allow applicants who cannot accept water service immediately to obtain a reservation for up to two years, plus two six-month extensions, to get needed infrastructure in place.
"We wanted to move this along because time is of the essence," said Baisa on Friday, noting that amendments can still be made before second reading.
She noted that this bill is part of a package of three measures offered by the water department that needs to be approved by the council to deal with the waiting list. In September, the water department presented a plan to maximize the use of surface water Upcountry while implementing conservation measures with the goal of ending the waiting list.
Water director Dave Taylor has said that meeting the needs of all applicants on the waiting list will require an additional 3.5 million gallons a day. However, the department estimates that only half of those on the list have an immediate need for a meter.
Another bill would authorize the water director - with the approval of the mayor - to declare a drought or water shortage period in parts of the county. The other measure would create higher drought rates during declared water shortage periods.
In other action Friday, the council:
* Unanimously voted on first reading to authorize parks security officers to issue citations for unauthorized activity in county parks. This measure would give parks security officers more authority than just verbal warnings and could offer some relief for police who currently respond to these calls, said Baisa.
* Unanimously adopted a resolution urging the state Legislature to abolish the Public Land Development Corp. Established last year, the corporation was given authority to develop state land to generate revenue for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. Critics have claimed that the organization is too autonomous and powerful.
* Unanimously passed on first reading a $5.2 million appropriation for the Waikamoi Flume replacement project.
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.