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Environmental groups want action on stream flows

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  • KRYSTLE MARCELLUS / KMARCELLUS@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Hokuao Pellegrino uses the Waikapu Stream’s natural flow to feed taro patches on his family’s land. He says he can cultivate only two of the 12 loi due to a water supply limited by diversion. “All we want to do is grow food

WAILUKU >>  Environmental groups say Wailuku Water Co. is dragging out compliance with an order to restore steady water flow to some central Maui streambeds.

An agreement, reached in April and approved by the state Commission on Water Resource Management, called for 10 million gallons of water a day to be returned to Iao Stream and 2.9 million gallons per day to Waikapu Stream. Levels ordered for two other Na Wai Eha streams in 2010 were to be maintained.

Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake, who represented Maui community groups in the settlement talks earlier this year, told the Maui News (http://bit.ly/1DNJt64) the settlement was effective immediately, “but Wailuku Water Co. has dragged out the process.”

Wailuku Water Co. officials said it’s not as easy as turning on a spigot. The company delivers surface water for a fee to users, including Maui County and agricultural interests.

Company president Avery Chumbley said the last five months have been spent on needed system modifications, such as installing gauges and calibrating the release of return water.

In a timeline provided to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Chumbley said his company would complete necessary construction work to Iao Stream by Aug. 27 and to Waikapu Stream by Sept. 12. He said the company was awaiting an easement from a local landowner for additional work.

While he didn’t provide a date by which he expected water flow to be returned, state officials are hoping for a mid-October release to Iao Stream. A spokesman for the department said by email that “implementation for Waikapu Stream is underway.”

The commission is coordinating with the department’s Division of Aquatic Resources to conduct a pre-restoration habitat survey of Iao Stream. Storms have twice delayed that work.

Environmentalists have said diversion disrupts the streams’ native freshwater animals, while Native Hawaiians contend their water rights are violated when they don’t have enough water to sustain their taro fields.

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