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Water Rights Bill Dies in Hawai?i Legislature

East Maui Irrigation Co.
East Maui Irrigation Co.


Legislation to preserve rights for private users of Hawai’i’s fresh stream water died yesterday.


House Bill 1326 was deferred by the state Senate Ways and Means Committee after two days of deliberation, but it will miss a critical deadline to advance legislation this year.

The measure sought to extend temporary permits for stream diversions for a dozen private users statewide.

These include Alexander and Baldwin, utilities on Kaua’i and Hawai’i Island, and farmers and ranchers across the state.

The Senate committees on Ways and Means and Water and Land were set to decide the fate of H.B. 1326 at a joint hearing yesterday.

However, a last-minute amendment by state Sen. Kai Kahele, chair of the committee on water and land, took lawmakers by surprise.

"This is a completely different bill that protects farmers, that protects ranchers. It provides transparency and accountability, and it opens and turns a new page and a new chapter on how we manage and protect our public trust resources in the state of Hawai?i," says Sen. Kahele. 

The amendment would have preserved stream diversions for all users except A&B.

Members of the Water and Land Committee voted 3 to 2 in favor of the amended bill.

However, Sen. Donavan Dela Cruz, chair of the Ways and Means Committee decided to defer the measure.

Permit holders have been working with the Department of Land and Natural Resources to secure long-term water leases.

But progress has been slow, and without the proposed extension, temporary permits will expire at the end of the year.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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