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Alexander & Baldwin Under Scrutiny in Maui Water Rights Court Case

tiago cardoso

New information has emerged in a court battle over water on Maui, and it's prompting the state to reevaluate annual water permits issued to Hawaiʻi developer Alexander and Baldwin.

The company and its subsidiary the East Maui Irrigation Company are allowed to divert 45 million gallons of water a day from East Maui streams under revocable permits with the state.

A Circuit Court judge has ordered a new hearing on Alexander & Baldwin’s water permits after a report found significantly less water was needed than the 45 million gallons of water a day currently allowed.

"The agricultural need in central Maui is somewhere between 3 and 4 million gallons a day. The county uses a minimal amount of water somewhere between 1 and 2.5 or 3 million gallons a day, depending on how rainy it is," Lucienne De Nies, head of the Sierra Club Maui Chapter, read from the report by the East Maui Irrigation Company.

"So if you're using 3 million for agriculture and 3 million for the county, at the top, that's 6 million. What happens to the rest? It's really not clear," De Nies said.

Last week, Judge Jeffrey Crabtree issued an interim decision to allow the Sierra Club an opportunity to present new evidence in a contested case hearing before the BLNR.

Evidence includes the EMI reports as well as a recommendation by DLNR staff to restore streamflow to four of the diverted streams.

Judge Crabtree said he’s prepared to revoke A&B’s annual water permits if there’s no formal request to stay his order.

A&B had no comment.

This story aired on The Conversation on June 2, 2021

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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