Council advances Wailuku Water appraisal
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.