Kaleo Manuel was given another job in DLNR while officials investigate what happened.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said late Wednesday that a top deputy on the water commission has been transferred to another position following news reports that he declined to release water to fill reservoirs in the Lahaina area until the fire was well underway and it was too late for the water to get to Maui firefighters.

Civil Beat first reported on Tuesday that Kaleo Manuel, first deputy of the Commission on Water Resource Management, stalled for hours on a request by West Maui Land Co. to release water landowners needed to protect their properties from the fire.

A series of angry letters obtained by Civil Beat and reported in a story Wednesday detailed West Maui Land’s efforts to obtain the water which the company said it wanted to make available to firefighters who needed it for the Lahaina blaze.

DLNR defended Manuel in a response and criticized Glenn Tremble of West Maui Land for implying Manuel was to blame.

In a statement that was not attributed to anyone, DLNR said Wednesday that Manuel was being re-deployed to a different DLNR division.

“The purpose of this deployment is to permit CWRM and the Department to focus on the necessary work to assist the people of Maui recover from the devastation of wildfires,” the statement said. “This deployment does not suggest that First Deputy Manuel did anything wrong. DLNR encourages the media and the public to avoid making judgments until all the facts are known.”

At the request of Gov. Josh Green, Attorney General Anne Lopez is reviewing actions taken or not taken leading up to the fire and in it’s aftermath.

The water dispute enflamed long-simmering arguments over water rights and water use on Maui. Some said West Maui Land Co. was trying to use the fire to snatch and even bigger share of water from other users. But other observers, including Green, noted that the fight over water on Maui has extended to whether agricultural water supplies should be used for battling wildfires.

The debate was blowing up on social media on Wednesday.

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