Today, the County of Maui and Maui community groups Hui o Na Wai ‘Eha and Maui Tomorrow Foundation, Inc., represented by Earthjustice, announced the settlement of a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") for a proposed water treatment plant that would take water from streams that are under dispute in an ongoing Maui water rights case.
The community groups filed the EIS challenge in state court on Maui on June 21, 2010, seeking to prevent the Wai‘ale Treatment Facility project from going forward. Under the settlement, the parties agreed that the County’s acceptance of the EIS should be invalidated.
“We should be focusing our attention on this historic opportunity to restore the native streams on Maui, instead of devising plans for private water and land development that will wipe out what makes Maui so special,” said Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake.
Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. proposed to build the plant, which would treat up to 9 million gallons a day from Waihe‘e River, one of Na Wai ‘Eha, “The Four Great Waters” of Waihe‘e River and Waiehu, ‘Iao, and Waikapu Streams. The water would be delivered by the ditch system owned by A&B’s Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar plantation and Wailuku Water Company.
The County accepted A&B’s EIS for the project on April 23, 2010. On June 10, 2010, the state Commission on Water Resource Management issued its ruling on Na Wai ‘Eha streamflows, which is currently under appeal.
"Because the Water Commission's decision directly affects the proposed Wai‘ale plant, we have agreed to revisit the EIS," Maui County Mayor Charmaine Tavares said. "We look forward to working cooperatively with Hui o Na Wai ‘Eha, Maui Tomorrow, Alexander & Baldwin, and other stakeholders in resolving critical issues affecting the environment and the public water supply."
“We are glad the County agreed to resolve this case amicably and sees the need to carefully examine the costs and benefits of this proposal,” said Hui o Na Wai ‘Eha President John Duey. “Streamflows are a public trust that deserve to be treated with maximum transparency and respect.”