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In-stream flows set for traditional kalo farming communities in West Maui

By Staff | May 28, 2021

HONOLULU — With support of written and virtual testimony from cultural practitioners, lineal descendants, keiki and kupuna on the importance of stream flow to support their livelihood and the ‘aina, the Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management last week adopted in-stream flow standards for Wai’oli Stream in Halele’a, North Kauai, and for three streams in West Maui.

The commission considered in-stream flow standards for Honokohau, Honolua and Kaluanui Streams, the latter being a tributary of Honokohau Stream, in West Maui.

Prior commission actions approved the abandonment of irrigation system diversions on Honolua and Kaluanui Streams by Maui Land and Pineapple Company (MLP), resulting in the panel approving of natural streamflow conditions to serve as the in-stream flow standard (IIFS).

For Honokohau Stream, the commission approved a two-phase approach that will establish a Phase One IIFS of 8.6 million gallons per day within 120 days, allowing MLP to make the necessary system improvements. The restored streamflow is expected to meet the existing needs of taro farmers in Honokohau Valley while also protecting aquatic life, recreation and domestic uses on Honokohau Stream.

The commission also approved a water reservation by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for 2.0 million gallons from Honokohau Stream.

Upon implementation of DHHL’s Regional Plan, the Phase Two IIFS will be initiated, and water from Honokohau Stream will be mixed with R1 recycled wastewater to meet non-potable water demands for agriculture and communal areas in DHHL’s planned West Maui developments.

The resulting IIFS would then vary based on half the available streamflow in Honokohau Stream.

In April 2018, the Wai’oli Valley Taro Hui suffered considerable damage to their ‘auwai when record-breaking rainfall fell on North Kauai.

As the taro farmers worked to repair their ‘auwai with legal and technical support from Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, they also worked with commission staff to ensure water from Wai’oli Stream was being properly managed in consideration of in-stream and non-in-stream uses.

Last week Tuesday, the commission approved a measurable in-stream flow standard of 4.0 million gallons per day, which is based upon the Native Hawaiian custom of keeping half of the stream’s flow remaining in the stream.

Commissioner Dr. Kamanamaikalani Beamer said, “This is a great example of us working alongside and with a community to help empower and resolve some long-standing issues.”

Following these decisions, Commission Chair Suzanne Case said, “We truly appreciate the efforts of community members, including private water users and other government agencies, in working collaboratively with our staff in seeking balanced solutions to sharing our limited water resources.

“Working closely with the Wai’oli Valley Taro Hui resulted in a decision for Wai’oli Stream that will maintain taro farming there for generations to come, while the West Maui decision represents a win-win solution for the protection of traditional Hawaiian practices and protection of in-stream uses in Honokohau Valley while meeting the needs of MLP, DHHL and the County of Maui.”