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Commission on Water Resource Management recommends modifying Red Hill permits

Navy Water Distribution red hill fuel contamination
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd/Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet
ALIAMANU MILITARY RESERVATION, Hawaiʻi (Jan. 12, 2022) - A potable water tank hatch is opened at a water distribution site. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremy Lemmon Jr.)

The Department of Land and Natural Resources Commission on Water Resource Management is considering some modifications to the U.S. Navy’s three water-use permits associated with Red Hill.

In January, the commission formed a permitted interaction action group to begin investigating the Red Hill crisis and make recommendations to the full body which oversees and manages the state’s Water Code.

On Tuesday, the PIG presented its report, recommending special conditions, fortifying a process to modify permits for Pearl Harbor and Honolulu Aquifer System water users, and reviewing existing state policies to address water shortages in the future.

PIG member Commissioner Mike Buck said the water-use permit modification would require an enforceable plan for aquifer remediation recovery. The special conditions would outline agency responsibilities, implementation schedules and funding.

“Requiring the Navy to cooperate and financially support aquifer remediation and recovery is not an unreasonable request,” Buck said during the commission's Tuesday meeting. “They are responsible for the damage to the aquifer and they also have a vested interest in its future use. They need this water as much as we all do.”

Buck said that special conditions would provide accountability and transparency.

“Aligning their responsibility with their future water use by modifying their water use permit is the most powerful leverage, the state of Hawaiʻi has to require them to commit the resources to recover that,” Buck said.

The PIG also recommended that the plan include remediation progress, water quality data sharing, contingency plans, water sampling and modeling, and water shortage plan implementation.

The Commission on Water Resource Management next meets in June to deliberate and vote on these recommendations.

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