Waiting on the water bill discussion

LIHUE — All eyes were on House Bill 1326 at the Legislature on Monday, even though the Senate Committee on Ways and Means deferred it last week, effectively killing the measure.

Rumors circulated through the weekend that the amended version of the bill was deferred in order to resurrect the HB 1326 House Draft 2 version of the bill on the Senate floor today.

The bill looks at continuing revocable permits for water rights, allowing for consecutive one-year holdovers of water permits. It has gone through several versions and renditions since being introduced.

Monday, House of Representatives Speaker Scott Saiki denied rumors that the House leadership is pushing for the Senate to address the bill during its Tuesday floor session.

“At this point, it is entirely up to the Senate leadership to determine how it wants to proceed. Whatever the leadership decides, it is important that the Legislature be civil and reasoned, rather than divisive,” Saiki said.

But people from around the state — including Kauai — are still rallying to the capitol in order to weigh in on this water bill and plan to be present during today’s session.

“We’ll have people in the rotunda and sign-holding and there, people will be more vocal,” said Anne Fredrick, of Kauai-headquartered Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, one of the organizations opposing the water bill.

She said there will be a group of people in the Senate chambers, as well, to silently oppose anything necessary during that session.

“We’ve already made such a big stick about the potential for it coming to the floor, they might not do something for tomorrow, but (the goal is) to have an ongoing presence,” Fredrick said.

If it were to be resurrected on the Senate floor today, the version of the bill that will be addressed is House Draft 2, one that targets Alexander &Baldwin more specifically than Kauai Island Utility Cooperative

That draft proposes allowing small farmers and entities diverting less than 2 million gallons of water daily to continue their use and would allow holdovers for revocable permits — like those held by A&B and KIUC — to go on for an additional seven years.

KIUC would still be able to renew their permits with the land board every year, according to that draft.

Fredrick and several others spent Monday targeting lawmakers and their staff, trying to get a few last words in before the potential for the Senate to resurrect the bill.

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