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OHA Supports Sen. Kahele’s Proposed Water Bill Compromise

April 4, 2019, 3:20 PM HST
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The Office of Hawaiian Affiars (OHA) Board of Trustees voted on Thursday, April 4, 2019, to support a water bill that represents a compromise that clears the way for resolution of a long-standing Native Hawaiian water rights issue and provides relief to concerned farmers, ranchers and other legitimate water users, while barring Alexander and Baldwin (A&B) and any other bad faith diverter from continuing to divert water under the Board of Land and Natural Resources’ controversial “holdover” of revocable permits. A&B’s holdover permit was invalidated by a state court in 2016.

The OHA Board voted to support a proposed SD1 of HB1326 that:

  • Extends the authorization for the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) to issue holdover permits except for holdover permits that have been invalidated by a court of law;
  • Forces BLNR to explicitly consider and minimize impacts before issuing holdovers for water uses over two MGD; and
  • Forces BLNR to make meaningful and timely progress on issuance of water leases

According to a press release from OHA:

Sen. Kai Kahele, chair of the Senate Committee on Water and Land, is expected to propose such a bill at today’s joint hearing between the Senate Committee on Water and Land and the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, on behalf of its East Maui client Nā Moku Aupuni O Ko‘olau Hui, the lead litigant in a two-decades long legal fight to restore water and justice, issued the following statement:

Finally, we have courageous leaders willing to champion the rights of Native Hawaiians and small farmers in the face of powerful corporate interests all too accustomed to using our laws to inflict unnecessary suffering upon our people and their ‘āina. After decades of struggle, the East Maui community is poised to hold Alexander and Baldwin, Hawai‘i’s largest diverter of water, accountable for all the harm they have caused, and to prevent them from robbing our community of its hard-fought legal victory. We thank Sen. Kai Kahele for standing with us, for standing against injustice, for standing up for our ‘āina.

OHA Chair Colette Machado, OHA Maui Trustee Hulu Lindsey and OHA Chief Executive Officer/Ka Pouhana Kamanaʻopono Crabbe issued the following statement:

OHA stands with our East Maui beneficiaries in support of a reasonable and just compromise. We stand with the Native Hawaiian community in demanding that the state uphold its public trust responsibilities in its management of our precious water resources by not allowing any bad faith diverter from continuing to flout a court order directing it to fulfill its duties under Hawaiʻi’s environmental laws. For far too long, our state has managed Hawaiʻi’s water in favor of for-profit enterprises at the expense of our environment and the rights of Native Hawaiians and kalo farmers, including our beneficiaries in East Maui. We believe that the draft that will be considered today serves to correct this long-standing imbalance.

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