LIHUE — Water is going to be returned to the North Fork of the Wailua River, at the Blue Hole and Waikoko diversions.
The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative board on Tuesday authorized KIUC President David Bissell to make changes to the ditch system to return water downstream from the diversions.
That was one of three directives KIUC received from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday, when the KIUC revocable permit for water use at the Blue Hole Diversion was approved.
The two other directives were to start environmental studies as soon as possible and to meet with members of the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to discuss the need for water to establish residences.
Bridget Hammerquist of Friends of Mahaulepu was at Friday’s hearing and submitted testimony asking for water to be returned downstream of the diversions.
“I am super pleased that the KIUC co-op board acted as quickly and as promptly to at least two of the directives they were given,” Hammerquist said.
The second directive KIUC has taken on is environmental analysis, and the board approved Tuesday the installation of additional gauging stations to increase data collection and understanding of the hydrology of the system.
The board also authorized the commencement of engineering design for permanent diversion modifications to ensure continuous stream flow for aquatic habitat. Construction will take place upon approval from the appropriate regulatory agencies.
The diversions are part of a ditch structure built in the 1920s and the water is used at two hydroelectric facilities that contribute 1.5 megawatts of energy to Kauai’s renewable energy portfolio.
“The hydros have been producing energy on Kauai for more than 100 years and represent an important piece of KIUC’s renewable portfolio and will help us reach the state’s mandate of 100 percent renewables by 2045,” said KIUC Board Chair Allan Smith.
Under their revocable permit, KIUC diverts the base flow from six streams fed by Mt. Waiale’ale rainfall (North Fork Waiula/Waialeale stream, Waikoko, Ili‘ili‘ula, I‘ole, Waiaka, and Waiahi).
Hammerquist said it’s important to remember that the water in Kauai’s streams are a public trust resource and should be used accordingly.
“Bottom line I’d say there’s enough water for everybody and no one person should take 100 percent of base flow,” Hammerquist said. “That can’t be good for the environment.”