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State high court agrees to hear Wailua water case

LIHU‘E — The Hawai‘i Supreme Court is taking on a case regarding the environmental impacts of a county waterline on the east Wailua watershed.

The body granted the water hui Kia‘i Wai‘o Wai‘ale‘ale’s application for transfer from the Intermediate Court of Appeals earlier this week.

Kia‘i Wai‘o Wai‘ale‘ale, an unincorporated community organization co-founded by Friends of Maha‘ulepu, filed the lawsuit in 2018 against the county Department of Water in objection to its environmental assessment for the addition of a two-mile stretch of an 18-inch water main between two existing lines in Lihu‘e to service Puhi, Lihu‘e, Hanama‘ulu and Kapa‘a.

The group argued that the DOW did not produce an environmental impact statement to address impacts on other east Wailua watershed ecosystems and natural resources, and that the project is producing “unpermitted public-trust water,” according to its request to transfer the case.

The existing water lines were installed in the 1990s.

This proposed main is a relief line that will alleviate an insufficient system pressure and flow, the DOW said in its response. This proposed line services Wilcox Medical Center and Wilcox Elementary School.

The DOW argued that the line “does not implicate the public’s use of or access to any lands or waters, the rights of public employees, or any other matter found in the above cases. This case simply fails to meet the criteria for mandatory transfer,” and the application is “based upon false, unsupported facts.”

“The Department of Water accepts the Supreme Court’s decision to grant the application for transfer and looks forward to the court’s decision,” a DOW spokesperson said Wednesday.

The Fifth Circuit Court initially dismissed the case, which was taken up by the Intermediate Court of Appeals. The community organization then applied to the state Supreme Court.

Friends of Maha‘ulepu President Bridget Hammerquist said this action “validates FOM’s position that this environmental issue is of sufficient importance to warrant transfer to the state’s high court now. A great win for our environment, water and Kaua‘i.”

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Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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