Question of establishing community water authorities will be brought to voters on November 8
By Shane M. Sinenci
Published in the Maui News August 27, 2022
On July 18, the county council passed a resolution bringing the option of local water control to voters on the Nov. 8 ballot.
If approved, the charter amendment will create an East Maui Community Water Authority and Community Board. It will also provide the option to create additional local water authorities and boards that will approve watershed management plans to ensure that water resources are managed responsibly.
The purpose is to acquire water systems to increase water availability and manage water as a public trust resource as mandated by our state constitution.
It is also common sense to allow local residents to decide whether they want to have local control of our most precious resource.
Support for putting the question of water authorities before the voters has been nearly universal, including from community members, the Board of Water Supply, Mayor Michael Victorino, state Sen. Lynn DeCoite, U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele, and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.
The resolution built off the extensive work of the Board of Water Supply’s temporary investigative group report on the East Maui water leases, which recommended the county acquire the leases.
I held 15 meetings in my committee where we learned that local water authorities are the most common form of municipal water management in the world.
As government agencies, Maui County Community Water Authorities will have the ability to obtain significant private, state and federal funding to upgrade dilapidated legacy plantation water systems throughout the county.
As government agencies, water authorities also have an unambiguous obligation to manage water resources for the benefit of the people.
Increased water availability could also bolster food security for our community. The new Department of Agriculture—which was created by a charter amendment I introduced for the 2020 general election—will also play a huge role in securing water for food production.
‘Oi ‘Oi ‘O Maui Hikina. For over a century, the impacts of sugar cane plantations have taken their toll on our island environment by destroying native forests and habitats and by dewatering streams.
It is time for Maui County residents to consider whether to change unsustainable practices and return to ancient sustainable practices of ahupua‘a management. As stewards of our own destiny, we are called to hana lima i lalo, to put in the work so future generations may thrive.
* Shane M. Sinenci is chair of the Agricultural and Public Trust Committee. He holds the council seat for the East Maui residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.