Take Action to Return Water to Waiʻaleʻale and Waikoko Streams

Please take a few moments to help stop the theft of our water from our sacred Kaua‘i streams – Wai‘ale‘ale & Waikoko. Next Friday, December 14, the Board of Land and Natural Resources will decide whether to renew the revocable permit (RP 7340) authorizing diversions from Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko Streams located in the Wailua ahupua‘a on the island of Kauaʻi.  

These two streams flow directly from Mount Wai‘ale‘ale, a paramount sacred place culturally revered for its life-giving wai. The renewal of RP 7340 authorizes the diverter, Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) to continue diverting nearly all the base flow of Wai‘ale‘ale Stream. Water is diverted to KIUC’s plantation-era Waiahi hydroplants, which account for less than 1.5 percent of Kaua‘i’s electricity.

BLNR can and must do better to right the wrongs of a century of diversions and set KIUC’s hydro diversions on a more just and sustainable path for the twenty first century.


How you can help:

  • SUMBIT WRITTEN TESTIMONY by December 12th at 5pm to blnr.testimony@hawaii.gov with subject line “Deny RP 7340”
  • ATTEND THE MEETING in support of Kauaʻi’s streams on December 14, 9am at Kalanimoku Building, Land Board Conference Room 132, 1151 Punchbowl Street, Honolulu
  • PROVIDE VERBAL TESTIMONY at the meeting 

Talking Points for testimony:

  1. Please deny KIUC’s request for the renewal of RP 7340 because the diverter has failed to meet its burden under the public trust doctrine to quantify its actual water use needs and show the lack of feasible mitigation and alternatives.  BLNR can only authorize diversion of water from Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko after fully analyzing whether KIUC must take water from public lands.
  2. Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko Streams are sacred resources for the community, island, and the Hawaiian people and lāhui.  The proposed permit amount of 7.4 mgd unjustly allows KIUC to take most of the base flows from these sacred streams. For a stream of such cultural and environmental significance in a conservation district the bar must be set higher.
  3. KIUC has not shown any progress on the watershed management plan as required by BLNR at last year’s meeting.  Any permit for water should be explicitly conditioned upon concrete progress toward the long-term lease requirements, including compliance with the public trust doctrine.
  4. The hydroelectricity generated by the diversions of Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko Streams account for less than 1.5% of KIUC’s electric use.  This small amount of hydropower is not worth the diversions of millions of gallons per day from Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko Streams. KIUC should consider other, more environmentally sustainable and culturally responsible ways to meet this tiny fraction of its power needs.
  5. If you have a connection to the Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko Streams or Wailua lands and community, please be sure to describe your personal cultural mana‘o or connection to the area for the board members.

Background

Historically, BLNR has issued month-to-month revocable permits for water diversions, which allowed diverters to avoid more rigorous review for a long term lease. In 2015, a state court held that BLNR’s use of revocable permits violates the law. Subsequently, the legislature amended the lease statute to allow continued use of revocable permits for three successive one-year periods, to allow diverters to prepare long term lease applications, including EIS studies and watershed management plans. The statue also requires that BLNR ensure existing diversions comply with the public trust doctrine. When the statute expires this year, all diverters will be required to complete long-term lease applications.

To date, BLNR has failed to ensure that KIUC’s diversions comply with the law. When BLNR renewed the permit last year it mandated that KIUC make a proposal for the partial restoration of flow, and make progress on its watershed management plan. However, BLNR’s staff submittal recommends approval of KIUC’s revocable permit without any showing that progress has been made on restoration of water or completion of a watershed management plan. Further, BLNR has never required KIUC begin preparation of an EIS on the diversions in order to satisfy the long-term lease requirements.

Restoration of the Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko streams is of special concern because the Wai‘ale‘ale and broader Wailua area is revered in Hawaiian culture for its spiritual significance. The classic ‘oli komo or hula admission chant of Kūnihi ka Mauna, which recounts a part of the Pele and Hi‘iaka saga, names the Wai‘ale‘ale area and describes fresh water’s foundational role as a physical and spiritual life force in Hawai‘i. The streams also support the endangered Newcomb’s snail and a variety of indigenous native plant and animal life.