Hawaii Lawmakers Propose State Purchase Of Maui Watershed

Feb 5, 2020

WAILUKU, Hawaii — Hawaii lawmakers have proposed a state purchase of a watershed in the West Maui Mountains to help preserve the area's native plants, endangered species and drinking water.

Bills put forward in the state House and Senate would approve funds to buy the Na Wai Eha watershed, The Maui News reported Tuesday.

The 14 square miles (36 square kilometers) of land in Wailuku was previously targeted as a possible purchase by Maui County, officials said.

“For a number of years, the County of Maui has been discussing a possible acquisition, but it has not moved forward,” said Rep. Troy Hashimoto, among the lawmakers who introduced the House bill.

Democratic Gov. David Ige's supplemental budget released in December requested $4 million for the watershed purchase.

The Na Wai Eha watershed is home to native koa, ohia and lama forests, valleys and mountains reaching 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) plus more than 45 endangered species, according to the bills.

Maui County Department of Water Supply Director Jeffrey Pearson said the watershed is known for the “Four Great Waters” of the Wailuku and Waihee rivers and Waikapu and Waiehu streams. The watershed provides about 70% of Maui island's drinking water.

Hashimoto, whose district includes Wailuku, hopes the state will take the lead in funding the acquisition. The land could be conserved through the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the county could operate the area's water system, he said.

Wailuku Water Co. has lost money and has been trying to sell the land and the company’s water delivery system for about 18 years, company President Avery Chumbley said.