No Extra Water for Monsanto

Department of Agriculture representative expects request to be formally denied this week.

By Zalina Alvi

The state Department of Agriculture (DOA) is making plans to tell Monsanto’s Molokai it can’t have any more water, even if they pump for it themselves.

The Agricultural Resource Management division will formally be responding to the company sometime this week, according to Duane K. Okamoto, deputy to the chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. The announcement was made at the July 22 meeting of the Molokai Irrigation System Water Users Advisory Board.

The company made an informal request to the department earlier this summer for permission to have more water, on the condition that they would pay for the extra pumping.

More water is not an option at this time, said Okamoto explaining that the 20 percent conservation cutbacks in water use for the summer would prohibit the department from allowing Monsanto to access more water. The decision also took into consideration the limits of sustainable yields and the electrical costs of more pumping.

“Hydrology is the more important thing,” said Randolph Teruya, DOA agricultural asset manager, referring to the natural water sources in our lakes, streams and oceans.

Monsanto is notorious for being the largest consumer of water on the island, using 30 percent more than the second biggest user, Coffees of Hawaii. It is also the largest employer on the island, specializing in agricultural genetic research.

Water Conservation Plans
The issue of Monsanto’s water conservation plan was also brought up by HomesteaderWalter Ritte, who asked why the company has not been forced to implement its plan.

The response from the board was that they can only request that non-homesteaders create and implement water conservation plans, and they do not file copies of such plans nor do they have the power to enforce implementation.

Teruya expressed an expectation that non-homesteaders would use common sense and best management practices, and would “not water what doesn’t need to be watered.”

Weekly readings of water use will determine and inform the board if non-homestead users are violating the mandatory 20 percent cutbacks that began in June.

Ray Foster, manager of Monsanto’s Molokai farm, commented that the company would do its best to conserve water, although they will continue to use overhead irrigation in some form. Foster also said they would give irrigating at night “a try” as part of their conservation efforts.

The board’s next meeting will be on Sept. 16 at 10 a.m. in the Molokai Irrigation System’s conference room in Hoolehua.

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