On Thursday, November 9, Alexander & Baldwin, who owns East Maui Irrigation and the Hawaiʻi Commercial & Sugar Company (until it closed in December 2016), is before the Board of Land and Natural Resource to seek renewal of their permits to divert water from East Maui for 2018. A&B is no longer actively farming their 33,000 acres and has no justification for diverting 80 million gallons of public water every day. Their long history of excessive water diversions has directly harmed the communities downstream that struggle with sufficient water supplies for daily use, taro farming, and traditional gathering practices.
In April 2016, A&B promised to “permanently restore” 7 streams. Eighteen months later most of these streams still have not seen their water flow restored. Then in December 2016, the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved A&B’s permits for one year as long as A&B followed through on commitments including the permanent restoration of those 7 streams in addition to Honomanu Stream. At that meeting A&B also said they would release their Environmental Impact Statement (that has been required since 2005) Preparation Notice in January 2017. A&B released their notice in February but since this publication, A&B has done no additional public engagement or taken any further steps toward completing an EIS.
A&B, known well as Hawaiʻi’s sugar mogul, has been transitioning the majority of their land from large-scale agriculture to new potential developments. Earlier this year A&B formalized this transition by converting from a publicly-held corporation to a real estate investment trust (also known as a REIT). Given this, one might ask “then why do they need to continue to divert 80 million gallons of water per day to their 33,000 acres on Maui?” Great question, we believe they no longer have the justification to do so.