BLNR says A&B can continue to divert streams

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources is allowing Alexander & Baldwin to continue diverting East Maui streams, even though the company’s Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. is ending sugar cane production this year.

The Sierra Club of Hawai’i said it was “disappointed” with the board’s decision, despite more than six hours of public testimony, an executive session and extensive board discussion.

A&B issued a statement Friday afternoon. It said: “The BLNR today approved the reauthorization of the East Maui water revocable permits, amidst support from farmers, the county of Maui and a significant number of Maui residents. Their approval will allow East Maui Irrigation to continue to reliably supply water to the county’s Upcountry Maui water system and the Kula Ag Park, and to new diversified agricultural activity, which we hope to increase over the course of the year on our former sugar lands.”

According to the Sierra Club, more than 100 people attended the board meeting, with over 40 testifiers speaking against the renewal of A&B’s water permits. The speakers provided “a variety of reasons as to why the renewal of these permits is both an injustice and illegal,” the club said.

The board’s decision to renew four revocable permits came with amendments.

According to the Sierra Club, those amendments included: capping A&B’s extraction of East Maui water at 80 million gallons per day, down from 160 million gallons; ordering A&B to fully restore stream flow in seven East Maui streams used for taro farming; adding Honomanu Stream to the list of streams to be restored; and requiring the removal of all structures from streams impeding the health of the native stream species.

“While today’s ruling does not in any way adequately address the injustices done to the people of East Maui, it signifies that A&B will no longer get everything it wants with no questions asked,” said Adriane Raff Corwin, Sierra Club Maui coordinator. “This ruling does provide the community with new tools to protect some of the streams and the Sierra Club of Hawai’i will be watching closely to ensure they are fully implemented.”

East Maui farmers and residents asked the Land Board to require the stream water to be shared, not that all of it be returned, the club said. The board members’ decision to cap the amount of water A&B can take from streams “shows that they are starting to listen to community members and that they recognize A&B has not proven it needs all the water it is asking for.”


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