Hawaii’s laws, statutes, rules and ordinances must evolve out of the plantation era and align with the state Constitution.

House Bill 1326 and House Bill 1171 perpetuate a disfavored plantation-era practice of holding over revocable permits for water use for decades and must die so better policies may evolve.

NOTE: pick the correct link

This is a call out to our state, county and community leaders to support a quicker evolution out of the plantation era, and into the reality of thoughtfully considered sustainable and regenerative food and energy security. Our water laws are fine for now, and don’t need amending by the state Senate at this time. No farmers will suffer if these bills do not pass.

Hawaii has been marked as a water-rich place that sells water cheap. With climate change, global political instability, a fragile world economy and fresh water scarcity, we need to keep and preserve our sacred and precious waters for our present and future generations.

We must not let them be sold cheaply through a makeshift system of revocable permits to foreign multinationals that do not have our interests at heart. Our state must begin to streamline the water leasing process ASAP, and safeguard the wai.

As a second-generation Hawaii farmer who needs water from the East Maui Irrigation Co., I want farmers to have long-term, stable water leases. I do not support the water legislation currently coming up for a vote in the Hawaii Senate on Tuesday at 10:45 a.m. These amendments to HRS 171-58 entrench the holdover permit process, and do not create a stable regulatory environment conducive to long-term water leases by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, in my opinion.

It is very unhealthy for Hawaii to send signals out to the world that instead of complying with our state statutes, it’s probably cheaper and easier to hire powerful lobbyists and get our 76 legislators and the governor to change the law.

Karen Murray holds a sign in opposition to SB2051 in the Capitol rotunda. 3 may 2016
Karen Murray held a sign in opposition to legislation aiding Alexander & Baldwin during the 2016 legislative session. Two measures in the current session would extend lease rights. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Kicking the can down the road when it comes to protecting our precious and sacred public trust water is a poor solution. Protecting our water is a no-brainer, let’s make it happen Hawaii!

The current law is very reasonable and can remain unchanged for now. Basically HRS 171-58 requires users of state-regulated water to create a watershed management plan with the DLNR, do an environmental impact study, or environmental assessment and apply for a lease. The process is not perfect, but it only covers waters that are being used from state lands at this time. There are plenty of other waters being used around the state that HRS 171-58 is not regulating.

While I respect our elected officials and their service, I also oppose this legislation on the grounds that in principle it violates Article XI, Section 1 of our Constitution and is not necessary for agriculture, and really just supports special interests and former plantation owners:

Section 1. For the benefit of present and future generations, the State and its political subdivisions shall conserve and protect Hawaii’s natural beauty and all natural resources, including land, water, air, minerals and energy sources, and shall promote the development and utilization of these resources in a manner consistent with their conservation and in furtherance of the self-sufficiency of the State.

All public natural resources are held in trust by the State for the benefit of the people. [Add Const Con 1978 and election Nov 7, 1978]

At the root of the problem is now that the plantations are all gone and no longer in control of the state’s water supply, is our state up to protecting and controlling it?

Time will tell.

One solution to this long-standing issue may be for Hawaii to convene a post-plantation era water summit, where hydrologists, cultural practitioners, developers, agriculturalists, conservationists, fishermen, legislators, regulators, experts legal scholars and concerned citizens put together a plan to manage our most precious water resources for present and future generations.

Lots of people need to put their heads together to find the pono path forward. Hawaii deserves nothing less than that type of effort, and a lot more than we are seeing out of our governing bodies and industry today.

“Water is life and the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.”

As a statewide ohana who cares about our collective future, let’s fix this problem for good (not exempt permit holders from the legal requirements and kick the can down the road thereby undercutting the leasing process), and not keep coming back to the Legislature every few years with these temporary fixes to a very solvable problem.

Other states across the country have much more robust water management policies in place that we could easily emulate and fit to our use.

Water is life and the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.

We can, must and will do better, and we will do it together.


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