Company Seeks 30-Year Lease To Divert State Water On Maui

Sep 25, 2019

WAILUKU, Hawaii — A Honolulu real estate firm is seeking a 30-year lease to divert water from Maui streams on state land after years of relying on temporary permits, officials said.

Alexander & Baldwin and subsidiary East Maui Irrigation Company have requested the long-term lease from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, The Maui News reported Tuesday.

The lease would allow East Maui Irrigation to enter state-owned land to maintain and repair existing access roads and trails in its system, while also enabling the company to deliver water to domestic and agricultural users including the Nahiku community, Kula Agricultural Park and sugar cane land owned by Mahi Pono.

Mahi Pono is a co-owner of East Maui Irrigation. The 30-year lease is needed to help Mahi Pono obtain financing for its farming operations, Alexander & Baldwin said in a draft environmental impact statement released Monday.

"A short-term lease would derail development of the Mahi Pono farm plan because of the risk of not being able to farm for a long enough period to recover their planned investment," the statement said.

Alexander & Baldwin and East Maui Irrigation applied for a long-term water lease in 2001 that was challenged by Na Moku Aupuni O Koolau Hui, a group of East Maui farmers, fishermen, hunters, and other traditional practitioners. The group's attorney declined to comment before reviewing the statement.

The requested lease length is a "huge problem," said Sierra Club of Hawaii attorney David Frankel, citing climate change and a lack of scientific information and analysis in various areas. "There's a lot of studies that still need to be performed."