Disaster Declaration Issued for Maui Drought

January 16, 2014, 8:56 AM HST · Updated January 16, 10:05 AM
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ʻUlupalakua Ranch. Photo by Wendy Osher.

ʻUlupalakua Ranch. Photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

The US Department of Agriculture declared Hawaiʻi and Maui Counties disaster areas due to ongoing “severe” and “extreme” drought conditions. Kalawao County at Kalaupapa on Molokaʻi was also named a contiguous disaster county also eligible for federal assistance.

US Senator Brian Schatz who announced the funding called the drought conditions “historic” and “extreme.”

At last report, the Maui Department of Water Supply had maintained its longstanding request for a 10% reduction in water use by Central and South Maui residents.

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A 20% voluntary water restriction for Upcountry residents was implemented on Oct. 30, but lifted just two weeks later on Nov. 13, 2013, when rains brought reservoirs back to safe levels.

On Moloka‘i, Senator Schatz said the water level in the Kualapuʻu Reservoir has remained “very low,” with a mandatory 30% reduction in irrigation water use continued by the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture.

The west season outlook released by the National Weather Service calls for near to above average rainfall through early 2014, with “long-range probabilities” that suggest an early start to the 2014 dry season.

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The declaration makes farm operators facing extreme drought conditions eligible for low interest emergency loan assistance from the Farm Service Agency, according to Senator Schatz.

“Funds may be used to assist in moving water to livestock in need, providing emergency forage for livestock, and rehabilitating lands severely impacted by the drought,” the announcement said.

Under the federal program, producers can borrow “up to 100% of the actual production or physical losses minus any disaster-related compensation received like insurance, up to a maximum of $500,000, at the current interest rate of 3.75%.”

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