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Bill to allow county to fill reservoirs with R-1 water dies at legislature

By Staff | Feb 20, 2020

HONOLULU – Co-introduced by Maui Representatives Lynn DeCoite (District 13), Troy Hashimoto (District 8), Angus McKelvey (District 10) and Tina Wildberger (District 11), House Bill 2518 had a short run in the 30th Hawaii State Legislative Session.

At the starting gate, the measure passed first reading on Jan. 23 and was referred to the Finance Committee (FIN) and the Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs Committee (WLH) on Jan. 27.

“HB 2518 will help the county finally carry through on the promises to utilize R-1 water from the wastewater treatment plant to recharge Crater Reservoir and other defunct reservoirs, which is critical for irrigation, landscaping and firefighting,” McKelvey advised.

It proposes to authorize the director of finance to issue general obligation bonds to the County of Maui for the upgrade of R-1 water delivery systems and the Department of Land and Natural Resources for the upgrade of certain water reservoirs located in the forest watershed areas on Maui.

The legislation reads: “The legislature finds that an average of over 8,700,000 gallons of treated water is disposed of every day using injection wells on the island of Maui. This method of disposal causes groundwater contamination, algae blooms, and coral reef damage in nearshore waters. To prevent and mitigate these damages and prevent further environmental harm, the legislature believes that additional infrastructure is needed for treatment, distribution, and storage of reclaimed water for subsequent use. The legislature further finds that the most desirable use for reclaimed water is for the irrigation of agricultural lands and landscaping, and emergency firefighting.

“The legislature notes that brush fires in West Maui burned an estimated 4,100 acres of land in October 2019. Providing firefighters with access to stored reclaimed water with which to fight fires will increase public safety and protect affected lands. Further, due to its levels of salinity, use of saltwater to fight fires alters the chemical composition of the affected soil. For example, the introduction of saline from seawater to topsoil creates barren landscapes that are unable to support native plant life and intensifies erosion, which helps to carry salinized soil to other areas.

“The legislature recognizes that water is a valued commodity and should not be disposed of without careful consideration. The legislature believes that without increasing use of reclaimed water in the State, residents will encounter potable drinking water shortages caused by the overuse of potable drinking water for agricultural, landscaping, or firefighting purposes. The legislature also finds that using former plantation reservoirs to store reclaimed water will allow for easier access for agriculture and landscaping use for West Maui and will provide firefighters with efficient access to fresh water.”

It was heard by WLH on Friday, Feb. 7, and the committee recommended the bill be deferred.

According to personnel at the Public Access Room (PAR), “When they defer a bill without a date for decision making, it means that the bill is dead.

“to survive it would need to be voted on by WLH and reported out with a committee report in time to make the First Lateral deadline” on Friday, Feb. 14.

According to PAR, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

No committee report was issued, and no further action was taken.

Generally, PAR told the Lahaina News, “the bill sits in the committee and dies in the committee when the deadlines it has to meet come and go.”

In related news, West and South Maui Rep. McKelvey announced that Gov. David Ige has released $506,000 in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funds, part of which will be used for design and construction for renovations, repairs and improvements at the Lahaina Comprehensive Health Center.

“It is important that health centers in smaller communities on the Neighbor Islands get financial support from the state to help them treat and care for the residents of those communities,” said McKelvey.

“I would like to thank the governor for releasing these funds that the Maui delegation secured.”