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Kawela Stream Diverted Again

Molokai No Ka Heke News Release

On April 19, the state Commission on Water Resource Management approved a historic “median flow” level of stream restoration for Kawela Stream, and directed Molokai Ranch to fully restore Kawela Stream for a period of six months while the Ranch conducts an audit of its wasteful and inefficient mountain water system. Community group Molokai No Ka Heke has been pursuing restoration for Kawela since 2019.

On May 11, Molokai No Ka Heke joined Water Commission staff and Molokai Ranch lawyers at the East Kawela dam, and witnessed the temporary full restoration of Kawela. The stream had overtopped the dam, the diversion intake was stopped, and all Kawela water was flowing in the stream as ordered by the Commission.

On June 23, Molokai No Ka Heke members returned to the East Kawela dam. Contrary to the Water Commission’s orders, nearly all of Kawela’s water is again being diverted to the west end, other than a trickle coming from a small relief valve at the bottom of the dam. Kawela stream below the dam is once again dry, as it has been for over 100 years.

“This is a real slap in the face to the community and young folks, who really came out strong in support of Kawela Stream and ahupua‘a,” said Molokai No Ka Heke attorney Mahesh Cleveland. “It’s also a slap in the face of the Water Commission, which clearly ordered a median flow standard, and further granted Commission staff the authority to require full restoration at least on an interim basis. The Commission ordered this, with Commission staff in full support. What we saw today was obviously not what the Commission had in mind, and is nowhere near Kawela’s median flow, let alone the full restoration the Commission envisioned.”

“After all the work we and the Commission staff did, it’s heartbreaking to see the Ranch carrying on as if nothing happened, as if they’re above the law,” said Molokai No Ka Heke member Teave Heen. “Kawela needs this water, and it needs it now; it’s needed it for decades. To see the Ranch just carrying on with business as usual should make everyone very, very angry.”

Members of Molokai No Ka Heke visited Molokai Ranch’s manager in Maunaloa on June 24, and informed him of the Ranch’s failure to comply with the Commission’s directives. The Ranch manager insists that the Ranch is doing what it needs to do, and referenced a Commission document from the April meeting where the issue was decided. That document was amended on the spot by the Commission, and Molokai Ranch’s lawyers were made aware of the amendments by Commission staff. These amendments were not reflected in the document that the manager claims allows the Ranch to carry on as before.

Molokai No Ka Heke has reported these violations to Water Commission staff and will continue to pursue enforcement of the Commission’s decision.


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