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Plan pleases taro farmers

LIHU‘E — The April 2018 floods caused inconsistent water supply to the Wai‘oli Valley Taro Hui.

And for the last three years, the hui has been navigating solutions to keep kalo farming viable.

Last week, the state’s Commission on Water Resource Management, part of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, approved a measurable in-stream flow standard of 4 million gallons per day.

Reid Yoshida, president of the Wai‘oli Valley Taro Hui, supports the change.

“Our farmers continue the centuries-old instream use of routing fresh, flowing water from Wai‘oli Stream through our lo‘i and back into Wa‘oli Stream and Hanalei River,” Yoshida said in testimony.

“This hui and our ancestors have stewarded Wai‘oli Stream and the greater Hanalei Kalana for four to six generations or more — long before there was a state of Hawai‘i, conservation district or interim in-stream flow standards.

“The hui organized as a nonprofit in 2018 after the floods “made it painfully clear that our entire community and way of life was at risk. Our lo‘i kalo irrigation system sustained major damage, completely cutting off our water supply,” Yoshida said.

Yoshida said the IFS is consistent with Native Hawaiian diversion of less than 50% of stream flow, and “this traditional approach is perfect for our traditional use.”

Wai‘oli Stream flows south to north into Hanalei Bay, and end users of the East Wai‘oli Ditch are the kalo farmers part of the hui.

Water from the main stem of the stream is conveyed to a tributary on the right bank at about 160-foot elevation. DLNR staff recommended the one measurable interim IFS near 80 feet, below the confluence of the stream and the tributary on the right bank.

The April 2018 floods destroyed the original manowai, and the 2021 flooding indicated that was a good place for the diversion to be placed.

According to the staff report, the only long-term records of natural diverted stream flow was between 1914 to 1932.

This change also signals a partnership between the hui and the commission. The hui will monitor the East Wai‘oli Ditch below the diversion and report to the commission quarterly, while the commission will work to help install a gaging device.

The hui also had support from Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law.

“We truly appreciate the efforts of community members, including private water users and other government agencies, in working collaboratively with our staff in seeking balanced solutions to sharing our limited water resources,” commission Chair Suzanne Case said in a press release.

“Working closely with the Wai‘oli Valley Taro Hui resulted in a decision for Wai‘oli Stream that will maintain taro farming there for generations to come,” she said.
Source: The Garden Island

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