Letters for Oct. 27, 2016

• Water system vandalism hurts all on Kauai

Water system vandalism hurts all on Kauai

I’m saddened by the vandalism of the Wailua-Ili’ili’ula water system. We’ve worked on this ditch-tunnel as well as the adjacent hydros and I have great respect for the engineers, operators and laborers who designed, built and maintained this system for almost 100 years. Hydros produce the cheapest power on Kauai and play a critical role in achieving our goal of 100 percent energy independence.

I wonder if the people who committed this crime know that King Kalakaua built Hawaii’s first hydro in 1888. Iolani Palace had electricity years before the White House; and when 11-year-old Princess Ka’iulani flipped the powerhouse switch, Honolulu’s city lights were a wonder of the Pacific.

Kalakaua built his hydro in the forest above the ag lands of Nuuanu. After the water passed through the turbines it was piped to Honolulu’s potable water system as well as the ‘auwai that fed the valley’s lo’i, farms and gardens — essentially the same design as our system on Kauai, the system that was just vandalized.

The Hawaiians were masters of water diversion and water management. Recent mapping of Kauai’s pre-Cook lo’i acreage (along with population estimates) indicates that during low-flow periods most of Kauai’s streams had to have been 100 percent diverted to support the lo’i and the population. During droughts people died, as told in Kalakaua’s book “The Legends and Myths of Hawaii.”

Under traditional Hawaiian Law (Kanawai …) altering or damaging a stream diversion was punishable with death and managing water then (as now…) was life.

However, our stream diversions have not been managed intelligently, and the DLNR is currently figuring out how much water can be diverted without causing environmental harm. KIUC will then be directed to manage these diversions to preserve stream life and provide for downstream needs.

We now have very sophisticated stream monitor and management tools that can optimize and balance our requirements for healthy streams as well as power, irrigation and aquifer recharge.

The most cost-effective way to manage our streams is to modify our existing infrastructure — not destroy it. This vandalism will result in higher utility costs for everyone on Kauai and penalizes those that can least afford it.

John Wehrheim, Pacific Hydro, Lihue

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