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% of the overall energy that KIUC produces.

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.

Now is the time to return the flow of Waiʻaleʻale’s sacred waters. The Hawai‘i Commission on Water Resource Management is working to set instream flow standards for Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko streams. They held a public meeting on Tuesday, August 21 at the Kauaʻi Community College. 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.

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…]

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.

E ola i ka wai. Water is life.