More than 50 farmers, lawyers, Native Hawaiians and conservationists rallied Monday morning to call on state lawmakers to reject a bill related to water rights.

Standing under a light rain in front of the Queen Liliuokalani statue outside the Capitol, Mahealani Wendt said East Maui taro farmers and others have suffered from Alexander & Baldwin’s diversion of millions of gallons of water.

“The Legislature should not be playing favorites between a failing industrial agricultural venture on the one hand, and the hundreds of families and small farmers doing actual, successful diversified agriculture on Maui,” she said in a statement.

Mahealani Wendt, Keanae-Wailuanui Taro Farming Community representative, leads a coalition opposed to House Bill 2501, Monday, outside the Capitol.

Mahealani Wendt, center, Keanae-Wailuanui Taro Farming Community representative, leads a coalition opposed to House Bill 2501, Monday, outside the Capitol. Also pictured are Albert Perez, left, of Maui Tomorrow, Tiare Lawrence, front right, an Upcountry Maui resident, and Healoha Carmichael, back right, a Keanae traditional gatherer.

Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

House Bill 2501 would let the Board of Land and Natural Resources “authorize the holdover of a previously authorized water rights lease during the pendency of an application to renew the lease,” according to the House Finance Committee report.

The measure, which would sunset in five years, cleared the full House last week in a 44-7 vote. It’s now awaiting a hearing in the Senate Water, Land and Agriculture Committee, chaired by Sen. Mike Gabbard.

Gabbard killed the Senate’s version of the legislation in February. It’s unclear what his plans are for the House version at this point.

“I am a resident of Upcountry Maui, and while my drinking water is diverted from the East Maui streams, I support the restoration of this watershed,” Tiare Lawrence said.

“I am confident there is more than enough water for the East Maui streams to reach the sea, and for residents to have clean drinking water, as well as responsible agriculture in central Maui,” she said.

A coalition of more than 80 groups issued a statement Monday in opposition to the bill. Read it here.

A group rallies outside the Capitol to oppose a water-rights bill, Monday.

A group rallies outside the Capitol to oppose a water-rights bill, Monday.

Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

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