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Deny changing aquifer designation

August 1, 2014 - 6:55am

This manao that is shared is regarding my family’s concern about the freshwater aquifer, referred to as the Keauhou Freshwater Aquifer.

My ohana, has lived in the Kohanaiki (Kekaha Region) for many generations. My mother, Elizabeth Maluihi Lee, deemed a “Living Treasure” by Office of Hawaiian Affairs, has continued to lead our ohana in the way she was taught by her parents, Kinoulu and Haleaka Kahananui, who were the tutu that raised us and lived on the slopes of Hualalai until their passing. Our paternal grandparents Chum Sum and Helene Kahele Kamaka Lee were also farmers that lived along the last traveled mauka/makai trail, that we called the Kohanaiki Trail.

A catchment tank was our water source growing up. When the pipeline was installed under Mamalahoa Highway, near my parents’ house, it not only made life easier for us but also opened up new subdivisions and development which in turn created much needed jobs. Prior to that, many family members as well as neighbors were forced to move away as there was no work to support their families.

It appears that after all these years, with the steady growth of people moving to Kona, we have never experienced any concerns pertaining to our freshwater aquifer. In my entire life, I don’t recall ever having any issues with our freshwater aquifer, which I strongly believe is because of the way God created the terrain along Hualalai and the effectiveness of the current monitoring system that is in place.

I have attended the public meetings, read much of the information made available to the public, heard testimonies — both for and against — regarding the petition filed by the National Park Service for State Water Designation and cannot see a problem with our present monitoring system. From the information I received at some of these meetings, it appears that if the NPS petition is approved, it will be very difficult for anyone to receive already approved water permits, much less any future water permitting needs. I strongly feel that this will jeopardize our future in development of projects such as Palamanui, Lai Opua and new residential applications.

NPS has done a great job in restoring Kaloko‑ Honokohau and I do believe it does a great job maintaining its beauty, however, it’s my understanding that when it was created back in the ’70s individuals who were instrumental in the development of Kaloko-Honokohau, were very hoolalelale (excited) that the top position of the park was to be managed by a kanaka maoli. This selection was honored with past administrations, however, it appears that it’s no longer a priority. Decisions made regarding the aquifer will forever impact our future. We are not visitors, we will retire here and not return home after retirement.

We need good sustainable development that will create jobs in order for our families to continue to live close by one another and remain in Kona. By approving NPS’s petition, it will impact progress. As the Iao Aquifer on Maui has demonstrated, should the Keauhou aquifer become state designated, application, processing and approval would become so difficult that no growth would be possible for a long time.

Our children deserve the right to live in the land they were born in. Approving this petition will create a Kona in which only the wealthy transplants will be able to afford housing, based purely on the law of supply and demand. It will be a shame if culture and lineal descendants would have to move away as a result of difficulty finding good, sustainable jobs and the inability to build homes.

Our efforts as a community would be more appropriately placed in assisting the county with upgrading the existing system, in whatever areas are necessary, through development funding as it has been, as opposed to turning it over to the state which does not have any more accessible means of funding than the county does.

Chairman William Aila, the National Park Service has not proved that the current system is failing. Where are the numbers and the research to back up such a drastic reformation? My ohana and I ask that you deny this petition filed by National Park Service, as it has not shown any proof that the Keauhou Freshwater Aquifer is in distress nor in jeopardy.

Reggie Lee for the Lee, Kamaka, Kahananui and Ako ohana of Kona.

Viewpoint articles are the opinion of the writer and not necessarily the opinion of West Hawaii Today.