Mediated agreement returns water to Waimea River

WAIMEA — Water flow will more than double in the Waimea River system once all of the diversions in the Kekaha and Koloa ditch systems are addressed, and some if it is already back in the watershed.

“We pulled some boards in November and restored some of the flow,” said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin, who represented Po’ai Wai Ola in a recent mediated agreement involving stream flows to the Waimea River.

Henkin and representatives from the state’s Commission on Water Resources Management met with the community and other entities involved in the mediated agreement at the Waimea Neighborhood Center Thursday evening to discuss the plans for returning water to the river system.

When it’s all said and done, the water flow in the Waimea River will increase from the current estimated rate of 16 million gallons per day to around 25 million gallons per day.

Also included in the agreement were 6.9 million gallons a day to be reserved for Department of Hawaiian Homelands for homesteading purposes.

The mediated agreement, which was approved by the state CWRM on April 18, was between five parties: Hawaii Agribusiness Development Corporation, Kekaha Agriculture Association, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, the Department of Hawaiian Homelands and Po’ai Wai Ola.

The affair began in 2013, when Earthjustice, on behalf of Po’ai Wai Ola, filed a petition to CWRM to revise the minimum flow in the streams. Earthjustice also filed a complaint stating the water diverted was being wasted.

“We wanted more water flowing in the rivers and streams,” Henkin said.

While some flow can be restored to the streams through removing boards, other diversions will require a “change in pluming” in order to accomplish the goal, Henkin said.

ADC and KAA have 45 days from the April 18 agreement to present a plan to change those diversions and restore water flow.

And while restoring water to the natural river system was viewed by most of the 50 people that attended the meeting as positive, some had questions about what will happen when the water rises.

Islands of sediment have built up in the middle of the river at various locations over time, and audience members said they needed to be removed before the river’s size increases.

“We can’t just have our kids out there dredging the river,” said Hope Kallai, of Moloaa. “ There’s a sediment problem.”

Kallai also called attention to a “parallel problem in Wailua,” pointing out that the diversion of the watersheds isn’t an issue unique to the west side.

The water from the diversions is expected to be restored within the next few months, and on June 20, CWRM will take action on the modified petition related to the agreement.

“There’s a lot of things that we don’t know, and that we’re going to find out by doing this,” Henkin said.


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