East Hawaii News

Full Senate to Vote on Water Rights Bill Next Week

April 9, 2016, 12:16 PM HST
* Updated April 9, 8:24 AM
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PIXABAY drops of waterThe full Senate will vote on several bills that have been recommended for third reading. Among them is HB2501 HD2 SD2, which relates to water rights.

On April 4, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means recommended the bill for a third reading. The third reading was requested due to the potential that the bill has to impact water rights across Hawai’i.

The Senate Draft 1 agreed with the finding from the Attorney General that the legislation is not classified as “special legislation” since it applies to a broad group of permit holders.

“The Senate Draft 1 passed by the Water Land and Agriculture Committee underscored and emphasized clearly whom this bill applies to and the opportunity it presents to help the Department of Land and Natural Resources with its longstanding revocable permits problem,” according to a release from the Senate.

Amendments made in WAM made provisions of the bill prospective, including allowing only the applications that have been filed on or after the effective day of the act eligible for holdover status.

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Given the general ruling of the court decision, the Senate sought to provide a mechanism to ensure a fair process for this class of water permit holders for a limited time period while DLNR establishes a longer term solution going forward.

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“We wanted to refocus the discussion on the farmers, ranchers, and cattlemen statewide who were impacted by the broad ruling of the court,” said Senator Jill Tokuda District 24 –Kane‘ohe, Kane‘ohe MCAB, Kailua, He‘eia, ‘Ahuimanu, WAM Committee chair.  “Our committee agreed to these amendments, understanding that there are water permit holders throughout the State, including Wood Valley Water & Farm Coop, Kualoa Ranch, Kapapala Ranch, the Kauai Island Utilities Cooperative, Kapua Orchards Estate, LLC, Molowa`a Farmers Cooperative, and the East Kauai Water Users Coop., to name a few.”

The other amendments made for HB2501 HD2 SD2 include two positions and a general fund appropriation of $150,000 to assist with processing holdover permit applications and an annual report requirement to the legislature to be submitted before each regular session until the regular session following the sunset. The annual report is to include the status of dealing with the holdover permits, actions taken during the interim, and any suggestions for legislative action or appropriation.

Although not included in HB2501, a $1,500,000 request from DLNR to fund an instream flow study was included in the supplemental budget bill.

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HB2501 HD2 SD2 is scheduled for third reading by the full Senate on Tuesday.

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