Environmental Court orders reduction in water take from East Maui streams
June 20, 2023, 5:45 PM HST
* Updated June 21, 6:53 AM
The state’s Environmental Court on Friday reduced the amount of water that can be taken from East Maui streams under revocable permits held by Alexander and Baldwin and East Maui Irrigation.
The nearly 25% reduction reduces the amount of water that can be taken—from more than 40 million gallons of water per day, to 31.5 mgd.
Sierra Club director Wayne Tanaka proclaimed the court’s decision as a “victory for the streams, and a vindication of both the law and the facts.”
The court’s decision noted that the water diversions authorized for diversion under the Board of Land and Natural Resource’s 2023 revocable permits, far exceeded the amount reportedly needed for diversified agriculture in Central Maui, the Kula Ag Park, Upcountry users, and for “Historic and Industrial Uses.”
Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources, Senior Communications Manager Dan Dennison told Maui Now via email on Tuesday, “We’re still evaluating Judge Crabtree’s orders and analyzing our next steps as appropriate.”
An A&B spokesperson responded to Maui Now’s request for comment via email with a similar statement saying, “We are reviewing the court’s decision and its impact on the future of the renewal of agriculture in Central Maui and the provision of water to the people in Upcountry Maui.”
Judge Jeffrey P. Crabtree lowered the authorized amount, and invited the parties to return to court if additional evidence or information suggested a need for further modifications.
In May 2021, the environmental court reduced the amount of water that could be taken under revocable permits for east Maui from 45 mgd to 25 mgd. A year later, the court capped the amount at 20 mgd. The BLNR subsequently increased the amount of water that A&B and EMI could take to more than 40 mgd, according to a Sierra Club news release.
“Water is life. It is our most precious resource. And this ruling will help us to strike a better
balance in the sharing and protection of East Maui’s streams, at least for the near future,”
Tanaka said he looks forward to new leadership at the Board of Land and Natural Resources and new opportunities such as the Maui County Water Authorities.