Protect East Maui & Kauaʻi Streams

Protect East Maui’s Streams

The long-awaited draft EIS for the diversion of East Maui streams is finally here. It is a long, hard read, but it is a necessary step to holding the corporate diverters responsible for the harm they have caused to the East Maui watershed. Below is a brief summary of how we got to this point, and an explanation of what to expect next.  Below that is an online form where you can tell the EIS preparers the problems you see with this proposal.  

You can read the full draft EIS here. Public comments are due November 7, 2019. You can submit comments by clicking here or by emailing your comments directly to Earl Matsukawa at waterleaseeis@wilsonokamoto.com

How we got here

Alexander & Baldwin (A&B) has requested a 30-year Water Lease from the Hawaiʻi Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR). This lease application, if approved as is, would give A&B and its corporate partner, Mahi Pono, the right to continue to divert East Maui streams flowing through four lease areas on public lands, from Honopou to Nahiku. Before a lease like this can be approved, BLNR requires an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be completed by the entity requesting the lease. The EIS is supposed to document all the ways the lease proposal could impact the environment and whether these impacts can be mitigated. The BLNR then uses the EIS to determine whether or not to approve a lease to A&B and Mahi Pono.

This EIS is an important step in the decision-making process.  If the BLNR votes to accept the EIS findings and approve the water lease, the lease must go through a public bidding process, which A&B may or may not win. We want the EIS to be as thorough as possible so that the BLNR will have adequate information to make a decision on whether to approve a lease for this area and, if so, what types of limitations or alternative options to a 30 year lease should be considered.

Our communities have waited over 20 years for an EIS that discusses the real impacts of the longtime East Maui stream diversions. Providing your comments on this document now will help to expose the shortcomings of this document and ensure the truth about how the legacy of stream diversions have harmed the East Maui watershed and the people who rely on it. 


Protect Kauaʻi’s Streams

For a century, the sugar cane industry massively diverted stream water out of the Wailua basin on Kauaʻi’s east side, doing immeasurable harm to the environment and to cultural and agricultural practices of native Hawaiians.

Now KIUC wants to continue this destructive practice for another 65 years. Tell the Board of Land and Water Resources (BLNR) to reject KIUC’s inadequate Environmental Assessment (EA) and to deny its application for a 65-year lease to continue to divert Wai`ale`ale and Waikoko Streams. KIUC uses the water diverted from the two Blue Hole streams to power two 100-year old hydroelectric plants that generate less than 1% of the utility’s electricity output.  The Lawai pump storage plant coming on line in 2020 will generate almost 60 times more electricity for nighttime use, making the two old hydroplants obsolete.  KIUC’s EA does not meet State requirements for a lease application. There are significant spiritual, cultural, environmental and public trust impacts that can only be addressed with an EIS. Also:

  • KIUC receipt of federal funds in 2017 for system upgrades requires an EIS for future lease approval
  • The stream above the diversion is classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as federally protected critical habitat for the endangered endemic Newcomb’s Snail which requires an EIS.

Other talking points include:

  • KIUC’s use of the water is consumptive, meaning it is not returned to the stream of origin.  Any consumptive use of water within conservation district land requires legislative approval.
  • More than a dozen streams are diverted out of the Wailua watershed. But, Wai`ale`ale and Waikoko Streams are the only two streams accessible to the public; they are located in the Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve.
  • KIUC is asking for 30 million gallons per day (MGD) with the stream getting 3.5 MGD, or less in dry conditions.
  • The impacts of climate change is not addressed in the EA.What will rainfall patterns and stream flows be like 50-65 years from now?

The public has until November 7 to comment on the Draft EA.  Please submit testimony to ian.c.hirokawa@hawaii.gov.  Reference:  KIUC’s Waiahi Hydropower Long-Term Water Lease. Mahalo!!