Sep. 9—A rally of Native Hawaiians and conservationists at the state Capitol in August called for the reinstatement of the Water Code, along with the authority of the Commission on Water Resource Management, which administers the code and the West Maui Water Management Area.
Gov. Josh Green announced Friday that he has lifted the suspension of the state Water Code, a move he originally made as part of his emergency proclamation in response to the Lahaina fire.
The announcement, which came as part of the governor's remarks on the Maui wildfire recovery one month after the disaster, was welcomed by conservationists and Native Hawaiians concerned about the allocation of water resources in West Maui following the fire.
A rally of Native Hawaiians and conservationists at the state Capitol in August called for the reinstatement of the Water Code, along with the authority of the Commission on Water Resource Management, which administers the code and the West Maui Water Management Area.
Speakers also demanded the reinstatement of Kaleo Manuel as deputy director of the Commission on Water Resource Management. Manuel was reassigned from his position after a letter was sent to the BLNR describing his actions during the Lahaina wildfire.
Supporters called Manuel a scapegoat and a fall guy for the fires, unfairly accused of delaying the filling of reservoirs that could not have been used that day by crews fighting the fires.
On Aug. 21 a lawsuit was filed demanding that Manuel be given his old job back.
Asked whether Manuel was being reinstated as deputy director, a spokesman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources declined to comment Friday, saying it was a personnel issue.
Isaac Moriwake, director of the Earthjustice Honolulu office, said he welcomed the move to reinstate the Water Code.
"I'm not really sure what the suspension was about in the first place, " he said.
Moriwake said he also supports putting Manuel back in his former position leading the commission. When the Water Code was suspended and Manuel was reassigned, the commission was in the process of making allocations of water for various users in West Maui.
"Hopefully this will restore law and order and allow us to move past the craziness and chaos " caused by the dubious accusations, Moriwake said.
The State Water Code was adopted by the 1987 state Legislature to provide various layers of protection for water resources in Hawaii. The Water Code provides the legal basis for the commission, along with its authorities and responsibilities. The commission sets policies and approves water allocations for all water users.
In his emergency proclamation, Green suspended the Water Code "to the extent necessary to respond to the emergency."