On February 27, 2002, the Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM) adopted a proposal by the Kamehameha Schools (KS) to fully restore flows to three streams that feed the famous Hi`ilawe Twin Falls above Waipi`o Valley on the island of Hawai'i and on March 17, 2004, the State Water Commission confirmed their decision to grant the request. The restoration of these streams culminates years of effort by the Waipi`o Valley Community Association (WVCA) and others to stop the wasting of water by the Lalakea Ditch and to restore the streams.
Members of the Waipi`o Valley community were elated. "In supporting the restoration of these streams, Kamehameha Schools has demonstrated that they are more concerned with the environmental and cultural future of our islands than retaining a public asset in hopes of future profits," said Christopher Rathbun, Waipi`o Valley farmer and officer of the WVCA. "My hope is that other large stream diverters will follow their example," Chris said.
Under natural conditions, Lalakea Stream, its tributary and Hakalaoa Stream flow over the pali above Waipi`o Valley as the famous Hi`ilawe Twin Falls. The twin falls are Hi`ilawe Falls to the west and Hakalaoa Falls to the east. The twin falls converge in a huge plunge pool at the bottom of the pali to form Hi`ilawe Stream, one of two primary waterways that flow through Waipi`o Valley to the ocean. Hi`ilawe Stream supports lo`i kalo, native stream life, productivity in nearshore waters, fishing, gathering and other traditional and customary Hawaiian practices.
The proposed restoration of these streams is only the second stream restoration in the history of the State Water Code, which was enacted in 1987. The first stream restoration under the code was the partial restoration of Waiahole, Waianu, and Waikane streams in Windward O`ahu.
The Lalakea Ditch began diverting the three streams in the early 1900s for sugarcane irrigation and processing. The water was last used by the Hamakua Sugar Company in 1989. In 1994, the KS obtained the Lalakea Ditch when it acquired Hamakua Sugar Company land. The ditch continued to divert an average of 2.5 million gallons of water a day from the three streams to the Lalakea Reservoir, where the unused water flowed into a dry gully.