Gabbard joins aquifer designation opposition

West Hawaii’s Congressional representative told state officials this week she doesn’t see a scientific need to designate the Keauhou Aquifer as a water management area.

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West Hawaii’s Congressional representative told state officials this week she doesn’t see a scientific need to designate the Keauhou Aquifer as a water management area.

Gabbard sent her opinion to the state’s Commission on Water Resource Management Monday.

“There is no scientific evidence supporting the need for a designation, and numerous stakeholder organizations and individuals in the community strongly oppose it,” Gabbard wrote. “While we must always be cognizant of our use and preservation of natural resources, we cannot destabilize a community’s planned growth and access to water without clear scientific evidence that such action is necessary. I share the community’s concerns about the long-term impact that the designation of a Water Management Area for the Keauhou Aquifer System would have on the West Hawaii community.”

The National Park Service submitted last year the petition to designate the aquifer, which serves water users from Makalawena to Kealakekua, and mauka to Hualalai.

Gabbard said designation is “meant to protect the resource when there is a substantial risk of overuse or degradation of quality, and thus can rightfully lead to stringent restrictions on water use. However, West Hawaii has not met, or even come close to, this threshold. Hawaii County must have the ability to continue with planned affordable housing projects and other resources to serve a growing community.”

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Hawaii County’s Department of Water Supply has already come out in opposition of the designation, as have Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, who wrote the park service in July to say the petition appears to be based on an incomplete picture of the island’s hydrology, and Sen. Brian Schatz, who said the move is an overreach by the federal government.

“Recent research has shown that the Keauhou Aquifer System likely has much more water than had previously been believed, Gabbard wrote. “Most scientists and engineers who monitor the water on Hawaii Island believe that the aquifer is nowhere near using the 90 percent of sustainable yield which would automatically trigger the need for a designation; it is believed to be closer to 30 percent.”

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