Thursday, October 4, 2007

Proposed Water Availability Bill would Require Maui Landowners to Show a 20 Year Supply of Water before Approval of Subdivision Application

Under the Maui County Council’s proposed Water Availability Bill (Draft 09/10/07), property owners are required to prove that their projects will have a “long-term, reliable supply of water” before they are granted subdivision approval by the department of public works. Long-term, reliable supply of water means “the total water supplies from a private, non-County source available within a twenty-year projection that will meet the projected demand associated with a proposed development, in addition to existing and planned future uses.” § 14.01.040.

Under the Bill, the director of water supply issues the long-term, reliable supply of water determination, which the public works director must receive before approving a subdivision application. The long-term water supply determination is only necessary where a private source is used, otherwise, “[i]f the proposed subdivision will be served by the public water system, the subdivider shall provide written assurances from the department of water supply that the subdivision will receive water source and service from said department.” § 18.08.080(D).

In making his determination, the director of water supply must consider eleven specific criteria, including the following: potential cumulative impacts on surrounding aquifers; surface water-ground water interactions; potential adverse impacts on Department of Hawaiian Home Lands’ current reservations or projected future uses; potential adverse impacts on environmental resources that are rare or unique to the region and the project site (including natural, cultural, or human-made resources of historic, archaeological, or aesthetic significance); and potential adverse impacts on the exercise of traditional and customary Native Hawaiian rights and practices. § 14.12.040(D). In addition, the director of water supply has broad discretion to “consider the potential cumulative impacts of a proposed development,” which “means the impact on the environment and water supply that results from the incremental impact of the action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions regardless of what agency or person undertakes such other actions.” § 14.12.040(C).

The Council’s proposed criteria and procedure for determining a long-term, reliable supply of water evokes Hawaii’s environmental impact assessment law under Chapter 343, HRS. If this is the Council’s intent, then the process could potentially require thousands of pages of studies prepared by various consultants over a period of months before a final application is prepared for the water department’s review.

Under the existing county code, a party may appeal final decisions of the director of water supply under § 14.11.010.

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