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Kamehameha Schools Out of Waiahole Water Battle

In January 1998, the Kamehameha Schools Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate filed a water use permit application for 4.2 million gallons per day from the Waiahole Ditch system, primarily for golf course irrigation, dust control, and landscaping uses in connection with a massive 20,000-home development in central O`ahu. Although Kamehameha Schools is an educational institution, it is also the largest private landholder in the state and the wealthiest private trust in the nation. If granted, the permit would have further drained windward streams, taking water necessary to support native stream life, the Kane`ohe Bay estuary and fishery, rights of Native Hawaiians to exercise traditional customs and uses, and Windward agriculture and aquaculture.

As a result of opposition from Earthjustice, our clients and other community groups, on May 31, 2000, Kamehameha Schools agreed to work with Native Hawaiian and environmental interests to formulate an integrated water use plan that would examine alternative sources of water, such as reclamation. In light of the Hawai'i Supreme Court's decision in the Waiahole Ditch appeal, on November 29, 2000, the Commission ordered Bishop Estate to file a report on alternative sources of water for the Waiahole Ditch system. We received this report in May 2001, and hired an environmental resources engineer to prepare an engineering and economic analysis of Kamehameha School's report on alternative sources. Because the expert's analysis identified practical and feasible alternative sources of water for Kamehameha Schools to utilize, we used this as a basis for amending a petition requesting that the Commission deny Kamehameha School's water use permit application immediately.

In May 2002, a hearing was held before the Commission on this issue, which was well-attended. Over 100 people testified at the all-day Commission meeting, and over 1,000 people sent in fax or email testimony supporting the Windward Parties' petition and urging the Commission to deny Kamehameha School's permit application. Building on this outpouring of community support to protect windward streams, Earthjustice launched an intensive media and email campaign exposing the environmental and cultural consequences of Kamehameha's quest for more windward water. Our efforts were successful in convincing Kamehameha Schools in August 2002 to withdraw both its application for more windward water and its Hawai'i Supreme Court appeal of the Water Commission's most recent decision regarding the Waiahole Ditch.