RESTORE SACRED WATERS OF WAIʻALEʻALE

Waiʻaleʻale and Waikoko streams have been drained of most water for nearly 140 years—first for sugar and now for electricity. This ecosystem and the cultural practices that depended on it have dried up. But we have seen in other communities, when the stream is restored, life returns, and with it renewed cultural practices that sustain humanity physically and spiritually. KIUC itself has conceded that it does not need all of the water it is currently diverting to power its hydroelectric plant at Waiahi—which generates less than 1.5% of the overall energy that KIUC produces. We support sustainable, renewable energy but this is not sustainable. We know that water not only belongs in the stream but that water is a public trust resource. Water is shared by all. Hawaiʻi has a long history of corporate water theft but the tides are changing. Recent decisions by the water commission in East and West Maui and Waimea, Kauaʻi have proven that change is coming.

ACT NOW to help stop the theft of our water from our sacred Kauaʻi streams – Waiʻaleʻale & Waikoko.

This Friday, December 14, the Board of Land and Natural Resources will decide whether to renew the revocable permit (RP 7340) authorizing diversions from Waiʻaleʻale and Waikoko Streams located in the Wailua ahupuaʻa 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 to continue diverting nearly all the base flow of Waiʻaleʻale Stream.

How you can help:

       — SUBMIT WRITTEN TESTIMONY by December 12th at 5pm to blnr.testimony@hawaii.gov with subject line “Deny RP 7340”
       — ATTEND THE MEETING on December 14, 9am at Kalanimoku Building, Room 132, 1151 Punchbowl Street, Honolulu
       — PROVIDE VERBAL TESTIMONY at the meeting on December 14

Sample written testimony: 

Aloha Chair Case and members of the Board of Land and Natural Resources,

I strongly urge you to deny Kauaʻi Island Utilities’ request for hold-over revocable permit 7340. Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko Streams are sacred resources for the community, the island, and the people of Hawaiʻi. The proposed permit amount of 7.4 million gallons a day unjustly allows KIUC to take most of the base flows from these sacred streams. 

[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.]

KIUC has not shown any progress on the watershed management plan as required by the Land Board at last year’s meeting. Any permit for water should be explicitly conditioned upon proven progress toward the long-term lease requirements, including compliance with the public trust doctrine. KIUC continues to fail to meet its burden under the public trust doctrine to quantify its actual water use needs. The Land Board should only authorize diversion of water from Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko after fully analyzing whether KIUC must take water from public lands.

The hydroelectricity generated by the diversions of Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko account for less than 1.5% of the energy that KIUC produces. This small amount of hydropower is not worth the diversions of millions of gallons per day from these streams. The Land Board should urge KIUC to consider other, more environmentally sustainable and culturally responsible ways to meet this tiny fraction of its power needs.

Thank you for your consideration of this important issue. 

E ola i ka wai. Water is life. 

Sincerely, 

[Name]

 

The Hawai‘i Commission on Water Resource Management is currently working to set instream flow standards for Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko streams. The commission held a public meeting on Tuesday, August 21 at the Kauaʻi Community College where testimony spanned almost nine hours and the room was packed – standing room only. After seeing that the Commissioners may be supporting a more balanced sharing of the water, KIUC requested a contested case hearing. This is an administrative trial, and requesting it pulled the plug on the Commission’s deliberations. In response to KIUC’s action, Earthjustice, on behalf of Kaua‘i community group Hui Ho‘opulapula Nā Wai o Puna, also invoked the right to a contested case hearing, as did the Department of Hawaiian Homelands.

Mahalo nui to everyone who came out in support of Kauaʻi’s sacred waters.

We are asking the Water Commission to return at least 90% of the natural stream flows to these streams. If KIUC is allowed to continue to divert these streams, the standards should be fair and honest—based on evidence of exactly how much water is needed to operate KIUC’s hydropower plant. It is the duty of the Water Commission to ensure the protection and restoration of flowing streams today and for generations to come to support the traditional and customary practices and native stream life that depends on stream waters.

There will be more opportunities over the coming months to engage KIUC and agency decision-makers on this issue, including future KIUC board meetings and KIUC’s revocable permit renewal request from the Department of Land and Natural Resources in December. Please stay connected and share this information with your networks. We had a strong and effective presence at the meeting this week because of so many people like you. [Read more…]

How did we get here?

Historically, the Land Board 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.

E ola i ka wai. Water is life.