After more than a century of water diversions that often left them dry, five Molokai streams will have their flow at least partially restored following an April decision by the state Commission on Water Resource Management.
Following extensive community testimony in favor of the plan, the Commission voted to set interim stream flow standards for restoring the five waterways, which include Waikolu, Lualohe, West Kawela, East Kawela, and the East Kawela tributary. The standards will ensure partial restoration of the streams’ historical flow, with a long-term goal of full restoration for East Kawela Stream.
The stream restoration efforts are expected to improve groundwater recharge and replenish spring flows essential for growing limu. The effort to revive East Kawela Stream will require a phased approach to minimize the impact on customers of the Mountain Water System, which diverts water from seven streams to a 50-million-gallon storage facility to serve Molokai Properties, the former Molokai Ranch.
Stream protection activists Molokai No Ka Heke, led by Walter Ritte and supported by the nonprofit public interest environmental law group, Earthjustice, petitioned for restoration of the five streams three years ago.