Thursday, April 12th, 2007
A meeting of the Molokai Irrigation System (MIS) Water Users Advisory Board convened on Thursday, March 22 in order to clarify the water meter moratorium and discuss finances and legislation related to MIS.
Board member Randolph Teruya gave an update on the water meter moratorium, saying that misinformation had accidentally been given to homesteaders. He clarified that the moratorium only applies to the 1/3rd users of the water irrigation system, which includes the companies MPL and Coffees of Hawaii.
But Martin Kahae, who has a ten year attendance record at the MIS meetings expressed Homesteaders’ concerns over the water moratorium. Government control of funding ensures that DHHL have ask the legislature for money to build the infrastructure for water lines in homestead lots without meters. With a self-imposed duty to protect Hawaiian Homestead water, rights to water and resources for future generations, Kahae was there to object to any further contract with MPL.
Kahae said that the situation was similar to a moratorium in the eyes of Homesteaders as “the government and corporations have a relationship that’s choking ag on Molokai.”
Dissatisfaction with the previous MPL water transmission contract stemmed from the company’s utilization of what the Homesteaders viewed as “our irrigation system.” They believe that the 14in pipe which is meant for the drinking water needs of the Ranch should suffice.
“Private developers have accounts for whatever they wanna spend money on-all the money they want- but homesteaders are at the mercy of state legislature for funding; we don’t have the clout so we’re just waiting,” said Kahae with frustration.
As the meeting turned to matters of finance and legislation, the Board scrutinized Bill SB1705 which plans to change MIS Water Users Advisory Board into a governing board in July 2050.
The board was well informed on bill 1705 prior to its introduction in the Senate on January 24. However, the extent of the information contained within the bill remained a mystery. No formal position had been taken on the bill until the meeting because of a lack of clarity on management accountability and governance powers.
Chairman Adolph Helm commented on the history of the bill, explaining that “the MIS board has a long history of a poor relationship with the department of agriculture. However, recent measures have ensured that a better relationship is followed.”
In conjunction with MIS advisory board, the Department of Agriculture plans to develop guidelines to improve the irrigation system. The guidelines will ensure that mechanisms are in place for the recognition of concerns but will also hold the Department of Agriculture accountable at a reasonable and predetermined level.
As members scrutinized bill 1705, the question of finance was raised. Members expressed concern over the ambiguous language used when referring to the money which would be available for repair and maintenance of the irrigation system.
“55% of the receipts and revenues collected from user fees…” read one member, scrutinizing the bill. “What is 55% and how does it relate to MIS?”
“Based on the economics I’ve seen, I wouldn’t touch this with a ten foot pole,” advised Board member Richard Wheeler.
Allusions were then made on a pending financial and management audit of the Department of Agriculture's operation of the Molokai Irrigation System. This audit, requested in legislature through House Concurrent Resolution 342, will hopefully lower fees and rates for users of the system by exposing and terminating any diversion of revenues generated by the Molokai irrigation system.
The audit aims to uncover: (1) The total annual revenues generated from users of the Molokai irrigation system for the last three years;
(2) The total annual costs of operation and maintenance of the Molokai irrigation system for the last three years;
(3) Anticipated major costs for upkeep of the Molokai irrigation system over the next three years;
(4) Any anticipated capital improvement costs that the Molokai irrigation system may require over the next three years;
5) What, if any, funds generated from users of the Molokai irrigation system are being diverted by the Department of Agriculture to subsidize other irrigation systems or other Department of Agriculture operations throughout the State;
(6) What measures may be implemented to improve the physical facilities and the operations of the Molokai irrigation system; and
(7) What measures may be implemented to reduce the cost of irrigation to users of the Molokai irrigation system.
After notification of a request by the Department of Agriculture to defer the bill in writing, James Boswell proposed a motion to take this action and was seconded by Wheeler.
Chairman Helm commented that MIS need to look at the bill and add clarification on their concerns so “when it reappears in legislature next year it can be one which everyone can support.” He continued by explaining the need to achieve a balance within the system: “The majority of users (of MIS) are Homesteaders. But 80% of revenues come from non-homesteaders so we wanna make it a win-win situation. A holistic system is the approach we need to take to ensure the well being of the entire system.”
The next meeting of the Molokai Irrigation System (MIS) Water Users Advisory Board convenes at 10a.m. on April 19 at the MIS Conference Room, Hoolehua.