×

State water panel to take up West Maui stream flow standards

The Maui News

West Maui interim in-stream flow standards will be considered today by the state Commission on Water Resource Management.

The panel begins meeting at 9 a.m. at the University of Hawaii Maui College Pilina multipurpose room.

The proposed standards are for the Ukumehame, Olowalu, Launiupoko and Kauaula streams. Since at least the 1930s, the streams had been diverted as part of sugar cane plantation irrigation systems, according to a commission staff report. After the state enacted the Hawaii Water Code in 1987, Pioneer Mill registered the stream diversions that were adopted as status quo. Then, after the closure of the mill, a subsidiary of Amfac, the operation of the diversions and irrigation systems was transferred to various companies that purchased Pioneer Mill lands.

Those companies were Uka LLC (West Maui Investors), which purchased lands mauka of a diversion on Ukumehame Stream; Olowalu Elua Associates LLC (a subsidiary of West Maui Land Co.), which bought lands mauka of two diversions on Olowalu Stream; and Makila Land Co. LLC (also a subsidiary of West Maui Land Co.), which purchased lands mauka of diversions on the Launiupoko and Kauaula streams, according to the staff report. Two diversions on Olowalu Stream are managed by Olowalu Water Co. (a subsidiary of West Maui Land Co.); and Launiupoko Irrigation Co. handles other diversions on the Launiupoko and Kauaula streams.

Olowalu Water has a Public Utilities Commission permit to distribute about 273,000 gallons per day of nonpotable water when approximately 600 acres owned by Olowalu Elua are fully developed. And, Launiupoko Irrigation has a PUC permit to distribute 1.33 million gallons per day of nonpotable water when approximately 6,000 acres are developed.

However, “a lack of streamflow has continued to impede kuleana uses of water, including traditional and customary gathering practices, the cultivation of taro and the recreational use of water,” the staff report says. “Informal complaints (e.g., phone calls, letters, emails) regarding the lack of streamflow in this region have been numerous.”

A table in the staff report lists 17 complaints, ranging from water diversions restricting traditional kuleana uses of land off Kauaula Stream in April 2008 to a subdivision developer altering an Ukumehame Stream channel in May 2014.

Three of the four West Maui hydrological units that are part of the commission’s current review have kuleana uses downstream of diversions, the staff report says. “And these streams also provide excellent habitat for a number of native aquatic fauna.

The commission staff recommends interim in-stream flows for each stream:

• 2.9 million gallons per day for Ukumehame Stream (below its main diversion at 220 feet above sea level), with at least 130,000 gallons per day supplied for taro farmers. The amount of water left over should be enough to supply Uka with 45,000 gallons per day for agricultural water and 4,000 gallons for landscaping at least 50 percent of the time with surface water flow.

• 2.33 mgd for Olowalu Stream (below its 130-foot-elevation abandoned U.S. Geological Survey gauging station). The recommended amount of in-stream water would allow Olowalu Water to meet its 196,000 per day agricultural water demand and its 141,000 gallons per day landscaping demand at least half of the time.

• 3.36 mgd and 4.1 mgd for two points on Kauaula Stream (below its main diversion at 1,540 feet and below kuleana users at 270 feet).

There was no change proposed for Launiupoko Stream, which “naturally supports limited aquatic fauna or ecological services and thus likely has limited cultural importance,” the staff report says. “Furthermore, the stream supplies limited aesthetic or recreational value.”

The stream is estimated to flow into the ocean less than 20 percent of the time.

The commission began investigating individual stream diversions and irrigation systems in West Maui in 2016.

In other agenda items, the commission will consider staff requests to impose a fine against landowner Olowalu Elua Associates LLC for construction of a stream diversion works and diverting water on Olowalu without a permit and a fine against landowner Bock Family Revocable Trust for altering East Kuiaha Stream in Haiku without a permit.

No one was available Monday afternoon at Olowalu Elua to comment on the proposed fine, which is $5,000, plus $500 in administrative fees.

Commission members may consider an after-the-fact permit for construction of a dam/spillway to divert 273,000 gallons per day and a remediation plan.

The same $5,000 fine and $500 in fees is proposed for the Bock Family Revocable Trust. Efforts to contact trustee Rainer Werner Bock of Haiku were unsuccessful. The trust allegedly is responsible for the unpermited construction of culverts on East Kuiaha Stream.