HONOLULU — A bill in the state Senate would earmark $4 million to buy land in a Maui watershed for conservation.
The Na Wai Eha watershed in the West Maui Mountains is being sold in pieces by the Wailuku Water Company, Hawaii Public Radio reported Wednesday.
The watershed provides about 70% of Maui’s drinking water.
The proposal would require matching funds from Maui County, which has considered a purchase for years but county officials have been unable to reach an agreement.
The appraised value of the land was about $11 million two years ago.
Public testimony on the measure was expected to be heard by the House Committee on Water, Land, and Hawaiian Affairs Wednesday.
Democratic Rep. Troy Hashimoto, who represents the Na Wai Eha region, said more than 4,000 acres (6.25 square miles or 16 square kilometers) of watershed land have already been sold to private owners.
“The future of our drinking water is within that watershed, so we need to protect that,” Hashimoto said. “It’s privately owned right now and they already sold off part of the areas that we were looking to acquire. So there is some incentive to act soon so that more does not get sold off into private hands.”