Maui Legislators Want State To Buy Watershed Lands Being Sold Off In Pieces

Mar 11, 2020

Rain clouds gather over the West Maui Mountains as seen from Iao Valley in Wailuku, Maui.
Credit Kurt Edblom / Flickr

Thousands of acres of watershed land in the West Maui Mountains are up for sale and state lawmakers are considering buying the property. 

The Nā Wai ʻEhā watershed provides about 70 percent of Maui’s drinking water and is being sold piece by piece by the Wailuku Water Company.

Under Senate Bill 2692, lawmakers would earmark $4 million in state funds to buy the watershed for conservation.

The proposal would require matching funds from Maui County; the county has been considering a purchase for years but officials could never agree on the issue. The appraised value of the land was about $11 million dollars two years ago.

Maui legislator Troy Hashimoto, who represents the Nā Wai ʻEhā region, says time is of the essence because more than 4,000 acres of watershed land have already been sold to private owners.

"The future of our drinking water is within that watershed, so we need to protect that," says Hashimoto. "It’s privately owned right now and they already sold off part of the areas that we were looking to acquire. So there is some incentive to act soon so that more does not get sold off into private hands."

The measure was approved Wednesday by the House Committee on Water, Land, and Hawaiian Affairs, and now awaits a hearing from the House Finance Committee.

Updated on March 11, 2020, at 3:54pm