HONOLULU — Kauai Island Utility Cooperative’s revocable permit for two upper diversions at Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko Streams was renewed by the state Board of Land and Natural Resources Friday, after lengthy discussions and testimony by several Kauai residents.
The approval is upon the condition KIUC engage in a mediation process with interested community members to talk about diversions, with a report due back to the BLNR in three months’ time — and to continue restoring water to the streams at the diversions — 4 million gallons daily in Wai‘ale‘ale Stream and 1.5 million gallons daily into the Waikoko Stream.
Kauai community group Kia’i Wai Wai‘ale‘ale traveled to the BLNR meeting on Oahu to comment on the topic, saying the existing diversions represent a threat to cultural resources and the watersheds, and several still have questions about the data KIUC is using for stream restoration.
“People are afraid. There’s this fear of water banking and that is driving the decision,” said Anne Fredrick, a Kauai resident who traveled to Oahu to testify with a group of Kauai people. “There should be more equitable sharing of the water.”
The water in question comes from Mount Wai‘ale‘ale and flows through the Wai‘ale‘ale and Waikoko Streams located in the Wailua‘ahupua‘a. Renewal of the revocable permit authorizes KIUC to divert water from those streams to run hydropower plants that generate 1.5 megawats of Kauai renewable energy.
“KIUC on water and on other matters, has a proven history of working collaboratively to create win-win situations,” KIUC chief executive officer and president David Bissell said at the BLNR meeting.
He continued: “We’ve done cultural impact studies, had meetings with multiple people and regulatory agencies. Hydros are important as a renewable energy generation source and water is being released into the stream, considerably more after actions from last year.”
In December 2017, KIUC was in front of BLNR looking for renewal of the revocable permit and the board had three requests worked in as part of the renewal: to put a system in place for partial streamflow restoration at diversions, that KIUC would work with landowners in preserving the watershed, and that KIUC would talk with the Department of Hawaiian Homelands to understand their needs.
KIUC has met those requirements, according to staff members, and data for diversion volumes show the entity is under average annual allowed diversion amounts — diverting 13.4 million gallons annually. Rules allow for 14.2 million annual diversion.
Additional gauges and spot measurements are now contributing to data on the stream.
Scott Enright, chair of the state Board of Agriculture said the Department of Agriculture supports the renewal.
“It’s the department’s position this is a balanced use of resources and one that’s sustainable,” Enright said. “Having someone on Kauai who is maintaining the old ditch systems for agriculture the Department is favorable of you moving forward and approving.”
Community members pointed out the need for preserving Waile’ale’ale’s waters for cultural purposes as well, including Malia Chun, Kauai resident who traveled to Oahu for the meeting.
“You have a clear duty to consider cultural impacts before any revocable permit can be approved,” Chun said. “To suggest diverting these waters has no cultural impacts is absurd and a disrespect to Hawaiian culture.”
Sierra Club, Earthjustice, KIUC and community groups are all on tap for the meetings now required by BLNR in order to approve the revocable permit, with openings for an unspecified number of other community members as well.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at firstname.lastname@example.org