Sunday, September 28, 2008

Hawaiian Water Rights Restored Now! Water Flow Return Needed for Native Speceis Survival

I attended the State Commission on Water Resource Management hearing at Haiku on Wednesday, and gave public testimony. It has been a long time coming for this issue to be heard and dealt with for the Hawaiian people of Maui. According to The Maui News, at issue was a 7-year-old petition filed by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. on behalf of Na Moku Aupuni O Koolau Hui and taro growers to restore water currently diverted by East Maui Irrigation Co. for the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.

The taro farmers have been in a long battle to restore a minimal water flow to at least 27 streams of east Maui. The instream standards recommended by state Commission of Water Resource Management staff included the following in particular; Honopou, 1.7 million gallons a day, Hanehoi, 1.72 million gallons a day, Piinaau, 3.56 million gallons a day, Waiokamilo, 3.17 million gallons a day and Wailuanui, 1.97 million gallons a day. Weather this is enough water for the taro farmers and for the ecosystem of the stream biota and species to survive remains uncertain. At least it is a start and if granted, this will be a historic ruling for our entire state.

I started attending MCC in 2005 and everything that I have since learned supports a mandatory minimum water flow, that runs to the sea. Skippy Hau, our state stream biologist for Maui County has been conducting data studies since 1989 on Hihiwai in particular, as well as O'opu and Opae in relationship to the stream flow (or no steam flow). He told my class that not only the Hihiwai and other native species of the stream are in grave danger of becoming extinct (without flow to the sea), but also our reef and limu species are extremely threatened without the streams providing the life-line of nutrients from the mountain to the ocean. Skippy Young from Hana also supported this issue of the native biota and species and brought it to the attention of the commission regarding the reef (he was the only one to mention the health of the ecosystems including the reef, limu, and ocean species). It is all connected and is in severe threat of dying.

Skippy Young testified first and then many followed, including myself. I was totally impressed with everyone who testified on behalf of the return of stream flow. Charles Villalon, testified on behalf of the reinstated Hawaiian government, demanding stream restoration, and disputed the state's authority to take the water at all. I felt that this meeting was extremely powerful, and I commend those who did testify because they hit the commission with smart intellect and the Hawaiian Kingdom Constitutional rights.

Under the State Water Code, the commission is charged with balancing the needs of stream life and ecosystems, along with wildlife, recreational uses, aesthetics and Native Hawaiian rights, against the need for water from streams for agricultural and domestic uses.

I had prepared written testimony, but once I heard many others give testimony for and against the stream flow, I decided to go off the sleeve and concentrate on the core issue of native species being threatened. From what I can remember this is what I said:
Thank you for coming and listening to all of us, as this has been a long time coming. My name is Annjulie Vai, I grew up in Kipahulu, I am a full time student at MCC, taking business and Hawaiian studies. Some of you are doctors and you all look like really intelligent people to me, so you do not need all of us to tell you to restore the water to the streams, this is a no-brainer, you know what to do, all of you. I said that I wanted to commend Skippy Young for bringing the marine life and reef into the discussion because no one had even mentioned that aspect of the equation. I told them that everything that I have been learning at school supports the stream flow and that Skippy Hau is the only person collecting data since 1989 (almost 30 years) and that he says that the reef and species are dying without the nutrients from the stream. I said all of you have a bottle of water to drink, it has been a long day, you need the water to survive, well so does the stream and everything in it all the way to the sea. Our babies need water to survive, our farmers, our taro, and pretty much everything on earth. I said look at all of the unjust that the Hawaiian people have endured in the past, this is your opportunity to do what is right. Please return the water now.... Thank you.

My resources are:
The Maui News, Historic ruling looms for restoring streams, published on Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008. By Chris Hamilton.

Public testimony by Skippy Young, Hana resident and Native Hawaiian as well as Charles Villalon of Keanae also Native Hawaiian.

Biologist Skippy Hau and what I learned from Hawaiian Field Biology 105 & Botany 105.

No comments: