A state resolution adopted March 28 calls for the creation of a task force to consider a plan for the Molokai Irrigation System in the face of “dangerously low” levels of available agricultural water.
House Concurrent Resolution 207, introduced by State Rep. Mele Carroll, was written in response to ongoing complaints by local farmers concerning the disrepair of the MIS. The MIS, operating under the state Department of Agriculture and constructed in 1957, has suffered from leaking pipes from its main source, Well 17, and other maintenance issues dating back many years.
Adding to these problems is the current drought. Reports show that the MIS storage levels are at 50 percent of their levels in 2011. HCR 208, which asks the DOA to address these problems and to improve the agricultural economy on Molokai, states that rainfall is at 10 percent of normal. The resolution also states that MIS users have operated under a 30 percent restriction for the past three years. As a result of these cutbacks, Molokai has lost 90 jobs and more than $2 million in revenue.
Testifying in favor of these two resolutions was Dave Gilliand of Mycogen, who said that, “the current summer forecast could cause further job restrictions and loss.”
Lynn DeCoite, a Molokai homestead farmer who was recently confirmed by the state Senate to the state Board of Agriculture, testified that, “throughout the years of farming, we have suffered cutbacks because of drought conditions. We can no longer continue on the course we are going.”
HCR 207 goes on to state that MIS water levels are “critically low,” estimated to be as low as 10 feet.
Representatives from Monsanto Molokai, Kumu Farms, Molokai Chamber of Commerce and the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation also testified in support of these measures.
The task force will be made up of various chairpersons from the DOA, the Board of the Agribusiness Development Corporation, the Hawaiian Homes Commission, the Board of Education and the MIS Water Users Advisory Board. The task force will report its findings to the state legislature before it convenes in 2013.
HCR 208 seeks to improve the agricultural economy through several actions: Developing a three-year plan for additional irrigation water source development to meet existing MIS user demand within the various service areas; Providing an estimate of capital funding requirements to develop basal groundwater well sources; Develop necessary engineering data utilizing existing hydrological data; Seeking capital funding for project development; Seeking Commission on Water Resource Management water use permits or increases in existing permits within the known limitations of aquifer sustainable yields; and Considering that increased irrigation water sales have significant potential to pay back the amortized cost of the capital invested.
The DOA will be charged with submitting a report to the legislature with its findings and recommendations before it meets in 2013.