Coun­cil ad­vances Wailuku Wa­ter ap­praisal

The Maui News - - OPINION - ALAN ARAKAWA “Our County,” a col­umn from Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, is about county is­sues and ac­tiv­i­ties of county gov­ern­ment. The col­umn usu­ally ap­pears on the first and third Fri­days of the month.

Iam pleased to an­nounce that ear­lier this week the Maui County Coun­cil took another step to­ward pre­serv­ing our nat­u­ral re­sources by ap­prov­ing the funds needed to ap­praise Wailuku Wa­ter Co. LLC.

The re­quest for an ap­pro­pri­a­tion of $150,000 went be­fore the Bud­get and Fi­nance Com­mit­tee on Tues­day. The money will be used to pay for an ap­praisal of the prop­erty and in­fra­struc­ture owned by Wailuku Wa­ter Co. so that when the time comes, coun­cil mem­bers can make an in­formed de­ci­sion about whether or not to buy it.

The rea­son this is so im­por­tant is be­cause the WWC is a pri­vate en­tity con­trol­ling one of our is­land’s most pre­cious re­sources — wa­ter. If we can take it out of pri­vate hands and put it into pub­lic ones, we have more of a say as to how it is dis­trib­uted.

For ex­am­ple, we could de­cide to re­turn more sur­face wa­ter to streams and the com­mu­nity at large. We could also use the wa­ter to im­prove upon the ef­fi­ciency and ca­pac­ity of our county’s pub­lic wa­ter sys­tem.

As for­mer Coun­cil Mem­ber Mike Vic­torino said when the ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced the pro­posed pur­chase last De­cem­ber, get­ting our wa­ter re­sources out from un­der pri­vate own­er­ship is within all of our best in­ter­ests.

“The com­mu­nity has been di­vided for a long time,” Vic­torino said. “But this pro­posal is some­thing we can hope­fully all fi­nally agree upon.” The WWC prop­erty com­prises 8,642 acres within the West Maui Moun­tain Wa­ter­shed area, which in­cludes its wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture, or “Sur­face Wa­ter Con­veyance Sys­tem,” as it is called. Last year, WWC pro­posed an ac­qui­si­tion price of $9.5 mil­lion to the county. Cur­rently, the county pays WWC $250,000 an­nu­ally for 3 mil­lion gal­lons of wa­ter a day.

Once the county com­pletes the ap­praisal, it will be pre­sented to the coun­cil for its re­view. Dur­ing this time, the coun­cil has the full author­ity to re­ject or re­quest mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the ac­qui­si­tion agree­ment.

In the end, coun­cil mem­bers will have the last say on whether to ap­prove or dis­ap­prove this pur­chase. First, how­ever, we need to get this ap­praisal go­ing, so ma­halo to all of our coun­cil mem­bers for mak­ing that hap­pen.

The de­ci­sion is very timely, be­cause this week Wed­nes­day we also ob­served the one-year an­niver­sary of the Iao Val­ley flood. It was that flood, I be­lieve, that dam­aged WWC in­fra­struc­ture and caused com­pany of­fi­cials to con­sider sell­ing.

On Sept. 13, 2016, the Wailuku River came rush­ing down the val­ley with a force not seen in at least 100 years.

The river rose up and tore apart Kepani­wai Park, wash­ing away al­most half of its park­ing lot. Sev­eral houses in the val­ley were flooded, with some res­i­dents hav­ing to swim out of their homes while oth­ers waited for res­cue upon their rooftops.

The rain and land­slides washed away a sec­tion of our wa­ter main, leav­ing a good por­tion of our is­land un­der a boil-wa­ter ad­vi­sory un­til re­pairs could be made. The rush­ing river slammed into our flood con­trol and filled it to ca­pac­ity, erod­ing sec­tions of it un­til all of Iao Park­side, the Wailuku In­dus­trial area, Lower Main Street and Paukukalo were all at risk of be­ing flooded out.

The Department of Pub­lic Works spent about $2.1 mil­lion for de­bris re­moval at the flood con­trol basin, the Iao Stream Bridge, the Waiehu Beach Road Bridge, and Iao Val­ley Road; de­liv­ery of earthen ma­te­rial to af­fected res­i­dents within Iao Val­ley; restora­tion of the stream bank ad­ja­cent to Ua Place; re­con­struc­tion of an ex­ist­ing levee pro­tect­ing Iao Park­side; and sta­bi­liza­tion of an eroded stream bank be­low the Imi Kala Bridge.

Thank­fully, we have re­ceived no­ti­fi­ca­tion that fund­ing un­der the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency’s Pub­lic As­sis­tance Pro­gram has been ap­proved for the work done at Iao.

In the mean­time, the county con­tin­ues the re­quired main­te­nance work in our flood con­trol. Just this week, our crews re­moved silt and rocks and other de­bris as man­dated by the U.S. Department of En­gi­neers. Any ma­te­rial we can re­use for fu­ture re­pairs, we will keep at our county prop­erty in Waikapu.

The county has been a good stew­ard of the flood con­trol basin, and we will be a good stew­ard of WWC’s re­sources if we get the chance.

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