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Thursday, August 17, 2023
DLNR 'Reassigns' Hawaiian Activist Who Delayed Water Resupply for Lahaina Fire
By News Release @ 1:57 AM :: 5089 Views :: Maui County, Environment, Greenmail, Land Use, OHA

Obama.org: Kaleo Manuel -- 2019 Obama Asia Pacific Leaders program  "Kaleo is the Deputy Director of the State of Hawaiʻi Commission on Water Resource Management. He believes that ancient wisdom and traditional ecological knowledge of native peoples will help save the Earth. Kaleo is passionate about elevating native and indigenous ways of knowing in all spheres of discourse and dialogue."

Obama.org: Leaders Asia Pacific 2019

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DLNR STATEMENT ON RE-ASSIGNMENT OF WATER DEPUTY

News Release from DLNR, Aug 16, 2023

(HONOLULU) – DLNR is re-deploying First Deputy of the Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM), Kaleo Manuel, to a different DLNR division. The purpose of this deployment is to permit CWRM and the Department to focus on the necessary work to assist the people of Maui recover from the devastation of wildfires.

This deployment does not suggest that First Deputy Manuel did anything wrong. DLNR encourages the media and the public to avoid making judgments until all the facts are known.

DLNR will have no further comment on this matter.

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Water: Taro Patch was DLNR Priority as Lahaina Burned

M. Kaleo Manuel Deputy Director Commission on Water Resource Management

1151 Punchbowl Street, Suite 227 Honolulu, HI 96813

Re: Lahaina Fires

Deputy Director Manuel,

I write on behalf of West Maui Land Company, the management company for three of West Maui's water purveyors: Launiupoko Irrigation Company, Launiupoko Water Company, and Olowalu Water Company.

Many people we know lost everything to the fires that ripped through West Maui. Lives were lost. Our employees and friends lost their homes, their business, and their lands. Our lives will never be the same.

As fires continue to burn across what remains of Lahaina and West Maui, we are doing what we can to provide water to the Maui Fire Department (MFD), the Hawaii National Guard, and federal responders, including the U.S. Coast Guard, Navy, and Marines. MFD has already taken what little water we had in our reservoirs and tanks. Because there is no electricity, we have moved generators to our wells and pumping as much as possible. We have generators on LWC Well 3 and Olowalu Well, which are providing both fire protection and potable water to those families who still have homes and who are sheltering those who have lost homes.

While we are doing what we can to help, we also reflect on what should have been done before the flames relentlessly marched through West Maui and what needs to be done to help our community recover and rebuild.

Yesterday, at around 9:00 a.m., the initial fire was declared to be contained. Despite this declaration, we remained concerned about the risk of fire due to downed power lines, exceptionally high winds, and low reservoir levels. We had also began receiving AC power fault alarms from the wells on the HECO grid at around 5:00a.m. We reached out to CWRM at around 1:00 p.m. to express these concerns and request approval to divert more water from the streams so we could store as much water as possible for fire control.

In response, CWRM asked us whether MFD had requested permission to dip into our reservoirs and directed us first to inquire with the one downstream user to ensure that his lo'i and other uses would not be impacted by a temporary reduction (not elimination) of water supply. Communications were spotty, and we had already made a concerted effort to contact the one downstream user. He had not responded. By around 3:30 p.m., a flare up had shut down the Lahaina Bypass.

At around 6:00 p.m., we received CWRM's approval to divert more water. By then, we were unable to reach the siphon release to make the adjustments that would have allowed more water to fill our reservoirs. We watched the devastation unfold around us without the ability to help. We anxiously awaited the morning knowing that we could have made more water available to MFD if our request had been immediately approved.

Fires are frequent in West Maui. As we experienced, a request to use water from our reservoirs to fight a fire must go unmet if we do not have water in our reservoirs. In an emergency situation, or when an emergency is anticipated, a temporary reduction (not elimination) of water to one individual's farm should not be prioritized over and delay efforts to save an entire community.

We cannot know whether filling our reservoirs at 1:00 p.m. (as opposed to not at all) would have changed the headlines when dawn broke on our weary first responders and heartbroken community. We know that fires spread quickly. We know that we need to act faster during an emergency. We know that the community we serve relies on the water as a defense from spreading fire. We know that we must have water available for MFD before MFD needs it. We know we can do better. We're all in this together.

As a first step, we respectfully request that CWRM immediately grant ongoing authorization to fill the reservoirs when a fire has been reported in the area from Ukumehame to Kahoma. As we are filling the reservoirs, we will advise MFD and CWRM of our actions and that water is available if needed.

As a second step, we respectfully request that CWRM immediately suspend the various interim instream flow standards and other regulations in the area from Ukumehame to Kahoma until the emergency period has ended, to ensure maximum support for fire suppression, clean-up efforts and our community as we recover.

As a third step, we respectfully request that CWRM immediately initiate proceedings to amend the various interim instream flow standards from Ukumehame to Honokowai to provide more water for fire suppression and our community as we face dry months in the years to come and as our community rebuilds.

I know you love this community, too. We are all devastated. No one is happy there was water in the streams while our homes, our businesses, our lands, and our lives were reduced to ash. We cannot suffer the risk that it will happen again.

 

Regards,

Glenn Tremble

CC: Josh Green, Governor

Dawn N. S. Chang, Chair

Nani Medeiros, Chief Housing Officer

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Hawaiian Activist at DLNR Blocked Release of Water for Fire--Taro Patch was Priority

SA: …On the day after the fire, the West Maui Land Co. Inc. sent a letter to Deputy Director M. Kaleo Manuel of the Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management, or CWRM, describing the events and communication problems that resulted in delaying the diversion of streams to fill reservoirs with water being made available to fight the fire.

…According to the letter, although the initial fire was contained at 9 a.m., there were reports of fallen power lines, fierce winds, outages and low reservoir levels, prompting the company to reach out to the commission to request approval to divert more water from streams so it could store as much water as possible for fire control.

Instead of approving the request, CWRM asked the company whether the Maui Fire Department had requested permission to dip into the reservoirs and directed it to first inquire with the downstream user to ensure that his loi and other uses would not be impacted by a temporary reduction of water supply.

Communications were spotty, the letter said, and the company had already tried unsuccessfully to contact the one downstream user.

By around 3:30 p.m., a flare-up had shut down the Lahaina Bypass.

“At around 6:00 p.m., we received CWRM’s approval to divert more water,” Tremble wrote. “By then, we were unable to reach the siphon release to make the adjustments that would have allowed more water to fill our reservoirs.

“We watched the devastation unfold around us without the ability to help. We anxiously awaited the morning knowing that we could have made more water available to MFD if our request had been immediately approved,” he said.

There were reports of the fire moving so quickly and at such temperatures that water was spewing out of melting pipes and depressurizing the lines that also supplied the fire hydrants.

Tremble’s letter said it is unknown whether filling the reservoirs at 1 p.m. would have ultimately made a difference.

But “we know that fires spread quickly. We know that we need to act faster during an emergency. We know that the community we serve relies on the water as a defense from spreading fire. We know that we must have water available for MFD before MFD needs it. We know we can do better. We’re all in this together.”

Tremble went on to request that CWRM relax its stream-flow rules during fire emergencies and reexamine an ongoing effort to make them permanent.

The commission’s Manuel could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Gov. Josh Green did temporarily suspend the interim flow standards during an emergency proclamation related to the fire….

Although Green didn’t address the West Maui Land Co. incident directly, he waded into the topic during remarks at a Lahaina fire news briefing Monday.

“One thing that people need to understand especially those from far away is that there’s been a great deal of water conflict on Maui for many years,” Green said. “It’s important that we’re honest about this. People have been fighting against the release of water to fight fires. I’ll leave that to you to explore.”

The governor added: “We have a difficult time on Maui and other rural areas getting enough water for houses, for our people, for any response. But it’s important we start being honest. There are currently people still fighting in our state giving us water access to fight and prepare for fires even as more storms arise.”

PDF: FINAL 20230810 Cwrm w Maui Fire Ltr From WMLC | PDF (scribd.com)

read … Request was made to divert water to fight Maui fire

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Spin to Death: Sovereignty Lawyers Make Excuses for Refusal to Approve Lahaina Firefighting Water

CB: … “No one’s trying to oppose the use of water to fight fires,” said Isaac Moriwake, an attorney with Earthjustice. “That was unfair for the governor to go there.”  The real issue, Moriwake said, is that West Maui Land Co. is trying to use the fire as an excuse to gain control over the region’s water supply.

(TRANSLATION: 106 dead and we are being unfair to a lawyer.  Ideologues don’t care about you at all.)

Moriwake points out that Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair Dawn Chang has agreed to amend — temporarily — several water regulations, at West Maui Land Co.’s request, pursuant to an emergency declaration related to the fire issued by Green. That included a provision allowing companies like West Maui Land to fill its reservoirs when fire was reported in the area.

“They should stop trying to use this tragedy for cheap advantage,” Moriwake said (looking in the mirror).

But Tremble said in an interview Tuesday that Moriwake was way off base, that it’s important to have access to water to fight fires. He invited Moriwake to sit down and talk.

“We invite him to meet with us and to visit West Maui to view the devastation and hear the heartbreaking stories before he offers his opinions,” Tremble said in a text message.

Moriwake isn’t so sure. In fact he said, one issue is whether the water would have done any good if West Maui Land had gotten the water when it requested it, at 1 p.m. on Aug. 8.

(TRANSLATION: If I can’t convince you that you should just burn, then I will try to convince you that you would've burned anyway.  I’m a lawyer.)

According to Tremble’s letter, Manuel’s division delayed its approval because it wanted to know whether a downstream user’s taro patch would be affected by the reduction of water supply.

West Maui and had already tried in vain to reach the taro farmer, Tremble said. The area is south of Lahaina.

Hawaii Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran has sponsored legislation to ensure water managed by DLNR could be used to fight fires. But he questions whether water from West Maui Land Co.’s reservoirs could have been used to fight last week’s blaze, given wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour that were fanning the flames. Helicopters that would normally be able to pick up water from the reservoirs and dump in on the fires couldn’t be used, he said.

“It would have been a good tool to have in normal conditions but not in the kind of winds we had,” Keith-Agaran said.

In his letter to Manuel, Tremble conceded it’s not clear having the water would have helped but said it would be better to err on the side of caution and cooperation during an emergency.

“We cannot know whether filling our reservoirs at 1:00 p.m. (as opposed to not at all) would have changed the headlines when dawn broke on our weary first responders and heartbroken community,” he wrote. “We know that fires spread quickly. We know that we need to act faster during an emergency. We know that the community we serve relies on the water as a defense from spreading fire. We know that we must have water available for MFD before MFD needs it. We know we can do better. We’re all in this together.”

Moriwake and others also weren’t happy that Tremble appeared to blame Manuel for the delay.

Moriwake said the deputy director doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally approve the release of the water to use for firefighting.

(And yet somehow he has authority to do nothing for five critical hours.)

Manuel’s boss, Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair Dawn Chang, also defended Manuel. In a letter to Tremble, she wrote: “I am very sorry for your personal loss and the loss of this community. I’m sure you did not mean to imply that Deputy Manuel was responsible for the devastation that unfolded as we are devastated with the unprecedented and unpredictable events that overwhelmed the community of Lahaina and West Maui.”

In an Aug. 12 letter, Tremble said the blame had rested not with Manuel, but rather the process of approving the release of more water. He wrote that Chang’s order to amend regulations during the state of emergency set things right….

(REALITY: Too little. Too late.  The results are before us.)

SATIRE: Biden Awards Hawaii Official Medal Of Honor For Saving Water During Fire | Babylon Bee

More of the Same: OHA: Lahaina Fires Caused by 'Western Forces'

read … The Lahaina Fire Could Prompt The State To Change How It Manages Water On Maui - Honolulu Civil Beat  

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