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Water use plan could be delayed to 2021

Committee recommends pushing deadline by six months

A council committee recommended Monday to push by six months the deadline for the council to adopt updates to the Maui Island Water Use Development Plan.

The plan — a dense blueprint for protection, management and use of water over a 20-year period — has an approval deadline of Dec. 31. On Monday, the Water, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee voted 7-0, with Council Members Alice Lee and Riki Hokama excused, to recommend a deadline of June 30, 2021.

“By listening to testifiers, we can see the merits of doing this,” committee Chairwoman Yuki Lei Sugimura said.

Most public testifiers Monday supported the deferral.

Kecia Joy, a Kihei resident, said in written testimony that she was “in support of deferring the Water Use Development Plan . . . to give us all more time to look over this important plan.

“Please know how important water is to everyone and how much a fair plan is imperative,” Joy said.

Megan Loomis Powers of Huelo said she is most concerned about the East Maui watershed.

“As a 50-year East Maui resident with close ties to the flowing waters in many of the streams (for both recreation, ag and residential use) I am very concerned for the health of the East Maui watershed and the impact the WUDP will have on the watershed,” she said. “As we know, there needs to be equity in the distribution of the water making sure the East Maui residents and Native Hawaiians have their needs met before water is taken away.”

Community testimony over recent months has called for more public engagement, saying the document is too complex, cultural issues have not thoroughly been addressed and data is outdated or missing. 

As a result, the Maui County Council voted unanimously last month to send the item back to the Water, Infrastructure and Transportation Committee. The topic was also referred to the Environmental, Agricultural and Preservation Committee.

Council Member Shane Sinenci, chairman of the latter committee, said Monday during the joint meeting that he is planning to meet with Maui’s 12 aha moku groups to discuss cultural concerns. 

Drafted by county Department of Water Supply staff, the plan would help guide management and use of the island’s water resources from 2015 to 2035.

A Maui County plan was adopted in 1990. Now, each island’s plan is being updated, with Lanai’s completed, Maui’s under council review and Molokai’s to follow.

In 2015, the department began meetings to develop the plan with various community groups, including Aha Moku O Maui, the Agricultural Working Group and Kula/Honua’ula Moku. 

Since 2016, the Board of Water Supply has held public meetings and workshops on the plan.

State and county law requires each county to prepare and periodically update water use and development plans as components of the State of Hawaii Water Plan. After approval by the council, the plan will be sent to the state Commission on Water Resource Management for final approval.

Eva Blumenstein, Department of Water Supply planning program manager who has worked on the plan, acknowledged Monday the challenges of public outreach on a projection plan.

“It’s difficult to do outreach to really identify individual impact on a 20-year plan level,” she said.

Sugimura said her committee will likely take up the item again in mid-December, depending on progress made by Sinenci in his committee. 

Sinenci may include proposed amendments as a report to Sugimura’s committee, which can then include other possible changes. 

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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