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‘Return the water’: In ongoing battle, Maui farmer finds water source locked up

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 7:03 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 13, 2021 at 10:25 AM HST
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WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The battle over water continues on Maui as some famers say their access to water has been abruptly shut off.

Wailuku farmer Robert Street says water to his taro patch stopped on Monday without any explanation.

He drove about a half-mile up the road Tuesday morning to check the pipe — and found a chain with a lock.

Wailuku Water Company controls the flow from the Wailuku River to his land.

“I’m disgusted and I’m upset, and I am demanding that the state commission on water resource do something about this and correct this hewa (wrong),” Street said.

Wailuku kalo farmer Robert Street says water to his taro patch stopped on Monday without any...
Wailuku kalo farmer Robert Street says water to his taro patch stopped on Monday without any explanation.(Hawaii News Now)

After a decades-long fight, the state water commission ruled in June that taro farmers with traditional and customary rights have priority to water from the Na Wai Eha — which encompasses the Waihee River, Wailuku River, Waiehu Stream and Waikapu Stream.

The decision and order established flow requirements including daily water to taro farmers.

“It’s absolutely frustrating, and I feel for them,” said Hokuao Pellegrino.

Pellegrino is a taro farmer in Waikapu and president Hui O Na Wai Eha. He has been fighting this case for 20 years and blames Wailuku Water Company for restricting water to Street’s property.

“Why in 2021 we have this vindictive nature that’s happening, I don’t know. But it’s really sad because these are people’s livelihoods, the way and which they sustain their ohana,” Pellegrino said.

Kaleo Manuel, deputy director for the state’s Water Resource Management, said in a statement the commission is looking into the issue.

Street wants Wailuku Water Company investigated.

“We want the water back,” he said.

Pellegrino urged the company to follow the state’s order.

“E ho’i ka wai. Return the water,” he said.

Wailuku Water Company did not respond to several messages left by Hawaii News Now.

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