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West Maui community groups file complaint against wasting Honokohau Stream water

By Staff | May 9, 2019

LAHAINA – On April 23, Ka Malu o Kahalawai and the West Maui Preservation Association, through attorney Lance D. Collins, filed a water wasting complaint with the state Commission on Water Resource Management. The complaint alleges that Maui Land and Pineapple Co. Inc. (MLP), Kapalua Water Company, and Kaanapali Land Management Corp. (KLMC) failed to properly maintain intakes, diversions and ditches that withdraw water from Honokohau Stream and released water elsewhere in West Maui.

Honokohau Ditch diverts most of the stream water to areas between Lahaina and Kaanapali. The intake and diversions are on MLP lands.

Kapalua Water Co., a subsidiary of MLP, provides private water services, primarily in Kapalua.

KLMC holds revocable permits for state lands underlying Honokohau Ditch, including in areas where wasting was observed.

Over the years, group members claim they have observed warmed Honokohau Ditch water flowing out to the ocean.

In late 2018, several large events occurred, including an early December dumping of so much water from the Honokohau Ditch that a fully running stream flowed through Hahakea/Wahikuli Gulch and out to Hanaka’o’o (Canoe) Beach.

Ka Malu o Kahalawai member Kai Keahi took video of water exiting into the neashore area.

Up mauka, Wili Wood, another member of the group, supplied video of water freely exiting the Honokohau Ditch via Wahikuli flume, into and through nearby fields, over cane haul roads and down into Wahikuli Gulch.

Keahi reported sightings of fish swimming through the fields.

Honokohau lo’i farmers are left with minimal water to grow their crops, which threatens their harvest.

“The real issue, and the cause of the loss of habitat and the ability to farm kalo, is that MLP cannot control how much gets diverted at the intake, so all of the stream is taken,” observed Keahi.

Honokohau Stream was once lined with thousands of lo’i kalo.

“Allowing water to flow from its sources to the ocean is vital for aquatic life and habitat as well as cultural practice such as lo’i kalo,” said Keahi.

“Today, with global warming, sea level rise, and salt water intrusion occurring in our small island’s fragile aquifers, it is very unwise to be wasting such a valuable resource as water,” commented Wood, a Honokohau kalo farmer.

“This imposes a great level of responsibility on the people chosen or hired to be stewards of our future, but unfortunately those stewards are too often shortsighted businessmen,” Wood added.

“Now is the time to make sure that tomorrow’s streams are still flowing clean and abundant life.”

The complaint seeks to require ditch operators to upgrade diversion technologies to allow more water to remain in Honokohau Stream during higher flow periods and better maintenance practices to ensure gates permitting return of water to the stream are clear of debris and opened at appropriate times.

The commission is required to take up the complaint, but no timeline for those proceedings has been released.