Comment period ends next week on Environmental Assessment of Molokai Ranch’s use of MIS system

| October 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

Molokai Properties Limited, commonly known as Molokai Ranch, has been using the Molokai Irrigation System since 2005 without an agreement with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, the owner and operator of the MIS.

Water from Well 17 goes through the Molokai Irrigation System and into Kualapu’u Reservoir and other points west on Molokai. An agreement to allow Molokai Ranch to use this system is now going through an Environmental Assessment.

Now the public has until Oct. 23 to comment on the mandated Draft Environmental Assessment published by MPL in September. The results of this process will determine how water users on the West End of Molokai will receive their water in the future.

The Attorney General’s office issued an opinion in 2007 that said use of the MIS by Molokai Ranch was illegal without a new Environmental Assessment. As required under Hawaii Chapter 343 environmental review laws, an EA is required prior to a new transmission agreement. The DEA looks at all potential impacts and mitigations associated with restoring this transmission agreement.

Molokai Ranch transports water from its source at Well 17 in central Molokai to Kualapuu Reservoir and the rest of west Molokai based on a 1975 agreement. The original agreement with Molokai Ranch expired in 2005. DOA and Molokai Ranch could not come to terms on the continued use of the MIS at that time.

Since then Molokai Ranch has paid the DOA $136,000 per year to use the MIS system for its water utility company, Molokai Public Utilities, which provides all the water for the West End, including Maunaloa.

Two alternative plans for using the MIS system are proposed in the DEA. The first alternative would be to not allow Molokai Ranch to use the MIS, thereby cutting off the West End from its water source. The second alternative would restore the agreement between MPL and the DOA to continue providing water.

A third alternative is offered as a potential future action. A new pipeline could be developed through the help of the State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to transport water from Well 17 to the West End. Another option involves building a new pipeline from Well 17 that would bypass DHHL lands to serve the West End. Another version of this alternative would be the construction of a desalination plant and two deep groundwater wells on the West End. In this scenario Well 17 would not be used.

The DEA describes all the options along with the potential impacts and mitigations for each one. The Office of Environmental Quality Control has published the DEA, which can be linked here.

The MIS, created in 1957 by the DOA, provides an irrigation system to homesteaders. Maintenance issues have also plagued the MIS with leaking pipes from its main source, Well 17. Two meetings were held on Molokai by MPL in July to obtain public feedback on the proposed DEA.

The 30-day public comment period ends Oct. 23. Comments can be submitted to the State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture, 1428 King Street, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96814. Contact Brian Kau for more information, 808-973-9560.

Following the DOA’s review of the written comments, the agency will determine whether an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be warranted or a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) is in order.

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