EMI Submits Draft EIS for 30-Year Water Lease to Mahi Pono

September 23, 2019, 11:51 AM HST · Updated September 24, 6:13 AM
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The East Maui Irrigation Company (EMI) has submitted a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a long-term, 30-year, water lease.

Company executives say the lease would allow a continued supply of water through the EMI system to Mahi Pono’s farm lands in Central Maui and other water users served by EMI including approximately 35,000 upcountry Maui residents served by the Maui County water system. Mahi Pono is a co-owner and operator of EMI.

“The filing of the DEIS is an important step in ensuring both the supply of water for upcountry Maui residents and supporting Mahi Pono’s vision of transitioning former sugarcane land into diversified agriculture, increasing local food production and helping achieve food security for Maui, and our state,” said Shan Tsutsui, Senior Vice President of Operations for Mahi Pono. “We are pleased that EMI is moving forward with this process.”

According to Mahi Pono, the amount of water use identified in the DEIS remains within the Hawai‘i Commission on Water Resource Management’s 2018 decision related to Interim Instream Flow Standards (IIFS) for East Maui.

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“Mahi Pono is 100 percent committed to honoring the IIFS decision that establishes long-term protection of Maui’s water resources, native Hawaiian traditional and cultural practices and the natural habitat of Maui’s streams,” said Tsutsui. “The stewardship of the East Maui watershed and stream flow are very important issues for our community and the future of our islands.”

In addition, Mahi Pono executives say their proposed agricultural operations “include a high-efficiency irrigation system which will help Mahi Pono use much less water than what was previously used during sugarcane operations, thereby leaving more water in the streams.”

The DEIS includes information about Mahi Pono’s long-range farm plan which outlines potential crops for approximately 30,000 acres of land which receive water from the EMI system.

An approximate breakdown of the 30,000 acres includes:

  • 15,950 acres used for farming (including 12,850 acres for orchard crops and 3,100 acres for other crops);
  • 13,800 acres used for pasture (approximately 4,700 acres would be irrigated); and,
  • 250 acres used for green energy, such as a solar farm.

“Our crop plan will always be guided by our commitment to sustainable agriculture and the responsible use of natural resources,” said Tsutsui. “This includes a commitment to using reasonable and environmentally responsible best management practices, planting non-GMO crops, and growing food for local consumption.”

Mahi Pono recently announced its first row crop planting of red and yellow potatoes on approximately 40-acres of land. Mahi Pono crews are actively clearing other fields in preparation for planting.

The next crop to be planted will be citrus trees – limes, lemons and mandarin oranges. Other crops scheduled for planting in 2019 include avocados and papayas; this is in addition to forage and cover crops that are currently being planted.

The filing of the DEIS marks the start of a 45-day period where the public can review the DEIS and submit comments.

“We know how important water use is to our community, and community input is critical to this process. We encourage anyone who is interested to take a look at the DEIS and submit their comments,” said Tsutsui.

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