For Immediate Release: January 28, 2022
Press Release by:
Shane Sinenci, Councilmember
Maui County Council
Council expresses interest in county obtaining East Maui water leases
HĀNA, Hawai‘i—In a resolution unanimously adopted Jan. 7 and a letter from Council Chair Alice L. Lee two weeks later, the Maui County Council has expressed interest in the county pursuing the long-term East Maui water leases pending before the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, Councilmember Shane M. Sinenci—who introduced the resolution—announced today.
Sinenci said Ian Horikawa, Department of Land Natural Resources’ special projects coordinator, has advised the council that the County of Maui can acquire the leases through an intergovernmental agreement initiated by the county administration. Resolution 22-4, FD1, and Lee’s letter assert the county would be an ideal lessee, providing greater public benefits than a private lessee, Sinenci said.
“When a private, for-profit entity acquires the right to water, the water becomes an economic commodity,” said Sinenci, who is in his second term holding the council seat for the East Maui residency area. “By acquiring these leases, the county has the opportunity to manage the water source as a public trust, assure equitable rates for all farmers and further the county’s and state’s goals of food security and sustainable local agriculture.”
Sinenci said there’s widespread support for the proposal.
In a letter to Mayor Michael P. Victorino and the council on Jan. 6, Dean Frampton, chair of the county Board of Water Supply, noted the board’s temporary investigative group, or TIG, three years ago touted the county receiving East Maui water leases. Frampton said the board, by unanimous vote, is now “encouraging the County of Maui to pursue the feasibility of acquiring the leases of the Nāhiku, Ke‘anae, Honomanū and Huelo license areas through an intergovernmental agreement with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) as recommended in our 2019 TIG Report.”
Sinenci said the 85-page TIG report can be found at https://tinyurl.com/TIGreport.
Sinenci said Hawaiian Homes Commission Chair William J. Ailā, Jr. has also stated support for the county’s acquisition of the leases, citing Maui County’s obligations as a municipal government to provide water to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
In a letter to the mayor, then-state-Sen. Kai Kahele said, “It is in the best interest of the County of Maui to secure its own long-term water lease with the State of Hawaii and to free itself from the dependency on private, commercial, third-party operators who are not duty bound, as we are, to uphold the state’s public trust obligation to conserve and protect Hawai’i’s natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations.” Kahele, who chaired the state senate’s Committee on Water and Land, is now the Member of Congress for Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Maui County.
Sinenci said he’s also pursuing legislation to create a water authority with water-system-management expertise to efficiently and equitably manage water systems acquired by the county.
Lee’s letter and Resolution 22-4, FD 1 are available on Sinenci’s website, MauiCounty.us/Sinenci.