The Maui News - For the first time since its inception 90 years ago, the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands is developing a policy plan that solely addresses its water kuleana rights and responsibilities.
Over the last two months, the department has conducted a series of nine community meetings statewide to gather manao from homelands beneficiaries. Planners from the department are hoping to develop a policy that will guide the department and the Hawaiian Homes Commission's decision-making over the next three to six years, not only about the availability of water but also how to provide water to homesteads.
The department, which has responsibilities to develop water sources, manage water systems, plan for future use and advocate for water rights, hopes to have a water policy plan approved by the Hawaiian Homes Commission by June, Manuel said.
The diversion of water from Central Maui streams for private, commercial purposes has been a bone of contention for homesteaders for decades and was brought up by residents at a meeting held last week. Native Hawaiian groups like Hui o Na Wai Eha and environmentalist groups like Maui Tomorrow have fought for the return of water to all four waterways in Waihee, Waiehu, 'Iao and Waikapu but, to date, water has been restored only in Waiehu and Waihe'e streams. 'Iao and Waikapu streams still have the majority of their water diverted by private entities including Wailuku Water Co. and Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co.
"In ancient Hawaii, water was not privately owned as property," said Jonathan Likeke Scheuer, a water resource specialist hired by DHHL as a consultant to the water policy plan. "It was held in trust for all the people; people had rights to water."
For more information or to submit comments, contact DHHL Planner Kaleo Manuel at (808) 620-9485 or firstname.lastname@example.org.