(ABOVE VIDEO) Reported by Sherry Bracken, Video by David Corrigan
KEALAKEHE, Hawaii – The State Commission on Water Resource Management met at the West Hawai’i Civic Center in Kona on Wednesday. There was only one issue: whether to grant the request of Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park to designate the Keauhou Aquifer as a managed groundwater area. The Council Chambers were packed.
The night before, the Water Commission released a Preliminary Findings of Fact document.
In September 2013, the National Park submitted a written petition to designate the Keauhou Aquifer System Area as a Ground Water Management Area, where additional Water Commission regulation is required. “This additional regulation,” writes the Water Commission, “is for owners of water sources (such as wells owners) who must obtain water use permits to withdraw water for various uses. Fundamentally, individual water management areas coincide with individual hydrologic unit areas.”
“If an area becomes designated,” the state explains, “all existing and new source owners, with the exception of individual domestic users, must justify their withdrawals and uses. To justify withdrawals, source owners must meet several criteria as is listed in 13-171, HAR, to obtain a water use permit. Various requests for government agency and public comments are an integral part of this water use permit process, which is also defined in 13-171, HAR.”
The Water Commission summarized the National Park petition, which addressed four major concerns, in its submittal for the hearing.
1. KASA sustainable yield (38 mgd) issues:
a. Potential harm to the coastal biota and potential for limiting the practice of traditional
and customary rights caused by the reduction of shoreline discharge from pumping is
not explicitly considered for protection is setting sustainable yield,
b. Projected water demands will exceed sustainable yield, and
c. Rising sea-level and declining rainfall will reduce sustainable yield.
2. Saltwater encroachment in the Kahaluu area.
3. Waste is occurring as Kona water use is “2.5 higher than other areas of the county.”
4. Serious disputes regarding:
a. Effects of cumulative future pumping on NPS resources.
b. Different conceptual models of the hydrogeologic structure of the KASA.
The Petition also makes legal arguments that imply the Commission’s statutory discretion in this
matter is limited and that past rulings by the Hawaii Supreme Court compel designation.Commission on Water Resource Management Dec. 10 submittal
The Hawai’i County Department of Water Supply currently has 12 wells in the Keauhou Aquifer, serving around 28,000 people. The county believes the designation is unwarranted. For the first time, Mayor Billy Kenoi spoke in opposition to the petition.
For Kaloko-Honokohau, Park Superintendent Tammy Duchesne, hydrologist Paula Cutillo from the Denver office, and Oahu-based consultant Jonathan Scheurer explained the National Park’s position.
The commission listened to hours of testimony from both sides. In the end, the commission differed the matter until May 2015. During that time, commission staff must gather additional information, and Hawaii County Department of Water Supply must provide an infrastructure improvement plan for the Keauhou Aquifer.
The commission has instructed the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park to provide information about traditional and customary native practices within the park.
The commission also asked the National Park to enter into mediation with Hawaii County to resolve issues of concern.