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Friday, October 16, 2009
OHA Trustees claim ownership of your drinking water
By Andrew Walden @ 7:39 PM :: 26687 Views :: Kauai County, Land Use, OHA

(This March 7, 2007 Hawai`i Free Press article about OHA's underground water claims outline the issues at the stake with OHA's surface water claims in the "Nä Wai ‘Ehä" Maui streambed diversion case.  Do you want OHA controlling your water?)  

Ue ka lani, ola ka OHA?  OHA Trustees Claim Ownership of underground water

by Andrew Walden

Thirsty? Get used to it. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) now claims ownership of most of Hawaii’s fresh water.

After months of hearings, the Kauai Springs bottled water company was ordered shut down in January by the Kauai County Planning Commission. The action was backed by OHA administrator, Clyde Namuo at a Feb. 13, 2007 hearing to reconsider.  

According to the Feb. 14 The Garden Island in a letter to Commissioner Randal Nishimura Namuo states that “the Hawaii Supreme court has found that where surface water and underground water mix and become part of a single system, (traditional Hawaiian) water rights can be protected.”

Surface water is a state “public trust resource” and according to Namuo, part of the public trust responsibility includes maintaining waters in their natural state and allowing Native Hawaiians to exercise traditional and customary rights such as fishing and gathering.

Well water is the source of drinking water for much of Hawaii. Since all underground water comes from surface water, Namuo’s theory -- which places any claim of real or imagined damage to Hawaiian fishing rights above all other property claims -- would extend OHA control to all wells in Hawaii -- control which might pass to a “sovereign Hawaiian government” if the Akaka Bill should become law. The only water which would evade OHA’s grasp is water which falls out of the sky and directly into a catchment system.

Kauai Springs owner James Satterfield operated the company in a 1600 sq foot building located on agricultural land with permits from the county, state and federal governments. When he built the facility, he was not required to obtain special use permits which would be required if the bottling facility were deemed “industrial” rather than “agricultural.”

Jason Donovan of Sustain Kauai explains that all changed when a competing water bottler complained to the Planning Commission. Hawaiian Isles is a major bottled water supplier on Kauai. According to Satterfield’s attorney, Harvey Cohen, Menehune Water, Hawaiian Springs and other Hawaii water bottlers operate on ag land with special use permits and his client is willing to abide by the same rules now that the Planning Commission chooses to require them -- but apparently that is not good enough.

Satterfield’s company has a lease to draw water from a spring on Knudsen Trust land. The pipe transporting the water is owned by Grove Farm. In a Feb. 24 letter to the editor of The Garden Island, Knudsen Toulon of the Knudsen Trust explains the origin of the water: “The water flows from tunnels that were constructed by Koloa plantation and are located on the Ahupuaa of Koloa, which extends from Kahili Mountain to the sea and from Weliweli to Lawai. This are is not ceded lands. It was purchased from the Hawaiians.

“King Lot Kamehameha sold the Ahupuaa of Koloa on May 1, 1863, to Mr. Robert C Wyllie. After Mr. Wyllie passed away, his estate sold the land in 1867 to Mr. Ira Richardson. My grandmother, Mrs. Anne Knudsen purchased the land from Mr. Richardson on March 1, 1872 ….

“The tunnels were dug back in 1898 by Anton Krupp, a manager of Koloa Plantation, for irrigation …. (In 1920) a pipe was installed and the water supplied to plantation employees, as well as Koloa town and Poipu, until the county had wells of its own.

“Mr. Satterfield’s right to operate his small business should be reinstated.”

Speaking at the Planning Commission hearing sovereignty activist Kaiulani Huff said, “Alert everyone they are on stolen land and borrowed land.”

If Huff and Namuo get their way, land previously sold by a Native Hawaiian would have no resale value. Since all land in Hawaii other than “ceded lands” was once sold by a Native Hawaiian or deeded to a Native Hawaiian and conveyed to his heirs, this would in effect result in the abolition of private real property in Hawaii and the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars in assets held by thousands of Hawaii homeowners and property owners, including the thousands of Native Hawaiian property owners who have profited immensely from the increasing value of their land since the 1848 “Great Mahele” land distribution or have purchased property since then. In essence, Huff and Namuo are arguing for the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom while claiming to uphold Native Hawaiian rights.

But not everyone would suffer. OHA trustees would be in control of all the property and would be free to lease it out to anybody they wish. This would be a very profitable arrangement for them and their Swiss bankers, although non-trustees both Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian may not be thrilled at the prospect of returning to serfdom after 159 years.

Speaking to The Garden Island, Satterfield says, “I am going to court. I don’t need those permits.”


TGI Feb 14:

TGI Feb 24:

Kauai Springs website:  

“Ue ka lani, ola ka OHA?” Is derived from, “Ue ka lani, ola ka honua” which translates as: “The heavens cry, the earth lives.”  


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