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Legislature Revisits Holdover of Revocable Water Permits

A House committee holds a hearing on Friday to consider the holdover of revocable water permits, allowing for the continuation of water leases authorized in previous legislation [1].

The item surfaces as Alexander and Baldwin ceased nearly 150 years of sugar production on Maui in 2016 and completed a $262 million sale of 41,000 acres [2] of agricultural farm land to Mahi Pono in December of last year.

The company’s water leases are at the center of an ongoing battle over water rights that stems from its use of water from island streams to support its agricultural and sugar operations over the years.

Advocates of the bill say the continuation of water leases authorized by previous legislation “has worked to provide for a stable transition from sugar cane to the potential for a diversified agricultural model on Maui.”

Those who have spoken out against the legislation in the past have expressed concern over renewals “without proper consideration and mitigation” of alleged harms to the environment and cultural practices.

The bill would do the following: “Allows holdovers of revocable water permits to continue until the pending application for a lease is resolved. Requires prompt execution of contested case proceedings for 1-year holdovers. Allows holdovers to continue pending completion of contested case proceedings. Removes repeal and reenactment provisions relating to section 171-58(c), Hawaii Revised Statutes.”

House Bill 1326 surfaces for consideration before the House committee on Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs on Friday, Feb. 8 at 8:30 a.m. at the State Capitol.  Individuals wishing to offer comments should submit testimony at least 24 hours prior to the hearing.

Companion legislation, Senate Bill 1116 passed first reading on Jan. 24 and has since been referred to the Senate committees on Water and Land and Ways and Means.