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Farmers Ask Hawaii Supreme Court To Overturn Ruling on Water Use

Hokuao Pellegrino

A group of East Maui taro farmers is urging the Hawai?i Supreme Court to overturn a ruling allowing continued use of public water by private users without environmental reviews.




The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation filed the appeal this week on behalf of the farmers, arguing for greater accountability in the diversion of stream water statewide.


For decades, the state allowed billions of gallons of water to be taken from East Maui streams by former plantation owner Alexander and Baldwin without considering cultural and environmental impacts.

A group of taro farmers and cultural practitioners want to change that. Summer Sylva, an attorney with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, represents the group.

"They’re really asking for – identify what your impacts are and tell us how you?re going to mitigate those – if, in fact, your use gets approved. Tell us, so that the decision makers know exactly what they?re saying yes to," said Sylva.


In the case Carmichael v the Board of Land and Natural Resources, a judge sanctioned the state?s practice of issuing month-to-month permits to A&B without requiring environmental reviews.


"And that should have been ordered prior to the diversion of these resources," Sylva said. "In this case, for decades and decades that has not been the case. These temporary permits at issue in this case have continued for over 30 years."


Alexander & Baldwin spokesman Darren Pai declined to comment on the appeal, saying the company is still reviewing the filing.

Sylva expects a decision by the high court in the next two months. 

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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