Maui County Proposes Purchase of 8,764 Acres From Wailuku Water Co.

December 14, 2016, 4:37 PM HST · Updated December 16, 3:10 PM
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Wailuku Water Company president Avery Chumbley (left with purple shirt) oversees the release of 10 mgd of water above Kepaniwai. The Oct. 2014 release was part of an agreement reached with several environmental groups including Hui O Nā Wai ʻEhā and Earthjustice. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa discussed the proposed purchase of property and infrastructure from Wailuku Water Company, LLC during a press conference this afternoon.

The Arakawa administration today transmitted a budget amendment to Maui County Council members, seeking their approval for funding to appraise the property and infrastructure owned by the Wailuku Water Company, LLC.

Should funds for the appraisal be approved, it would allow the county to begin efforts to purchase a portion of Wailuku Water Company, in this case approximately 8,764 acres of land in the West Maui watershed area along with its water conveyance system. The proposed acquisition price is $9.5 million.

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa said that while there is still a long way to go towards making this purchase a reality, this is an important first step in returning a valuable public resource to public hands.

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“We’re doing this for several reasons. The first is to return surface water back into the streams and rivers, the second is to return a public resource into public hands and finally, we want to improve the efficiency and reliability of the county’s public water system,” said Mayor Arakawa. “If this purchase goes through I believe it will not just be a win for native water rights but also make our Maui County water system the best in the state.”

During the press conference Mayor Arakawa ceremoniously handed over the budget amendment to Councilmember Mike Victorino, who represents the Wailuku district.

“The community has been divided for a long time,” said Councilmember Victorino. “But this proposal is something we can hopefully all finally agree upon.”

Purchase of the property and its assets are subject to approval by Maui County Council members, who have full authority to reject or request modifications to the acquisition agreement. Should council decide to approve funding for an appraisal, upon completion of the appraisal the county intends to transmit another budget amendment for the funds to purchase and a resolution to authorize the acquisition.

Tomorrow marks 11 years from the day Mayor Arakawa first pledged to restore water to Maui streams, as part of an Earthjustice settlement with Maui County during his first term as mayor in 2005. Former Earthjustice attorney Kapua Sproat who negotiated the settlement back then, said the mayor made good on his promise.

“We have come a long way, and we still have a long way to go,” said Sproat, now an Associate Professor at the University of Hawaii specializing in Native Hawaiian and Environmental law. “The mayor importantly noted that this is just one step in forging a real future for Maui after the plantation era. Similar steps need to be taken and will be in East Maui as well.”

 

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