Residents Have Another Chance To Join East Maui’s New Water Authority

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Residents who want a say in shaping the new government entity tasked with managing East Maui’s most precious natural resource will have one more week to apply for a spot on the newly created water authority board.

Maui County locator mapMaui County residents in November voted to establish new government entities charged with taking over plantation-era water systems and growing the supply of water for future generations. County leaders are now in the midst of vetting the people who want to lead the first body created under the new law.

During a meeting on Tuesday, Maui County Council member Shane Sinenci of Hana, who championed the proposal, announced that the county planned to reopen the application process Wednesday to give residents another week to apply for a seat on the board that will oversee the East Maui Community Water Authority.

Some Maui residents say officials must choose a board that will blend generational knowledge with cutting-edge science to manage the island’s water. (Marina Riker/Civil Beat/2022)

The application process had previously been open from December through the end of April, but county officials received a couple of late entries and several requests to consider giving people more time to apply.

“Listening to a few more will not hurt this process, and we will get more support from everybody,” Sinenci told his colleagues after interviewing candidates during Tuesday’s meeting.

Sinenci and other council members spent much of the afternoon questioning applicants ranging from Lurlyn Scott, a kalo farmer whose family has spent years fighting for water rights, to longtime conservation advocate Lucienne de Naie to Hana’s John Blumer-Buell, who has a background in gardening and landscaping. The applicants fielded numerous questions about their experience and knowledge of East Maui water and ability to take on the responsibility that would come with serving on the volunteer board.

The meeting marked the second time this month in which council members have spent hours vetting applicants who want to steer the new water authority. The proposal spelled out that the new water authority must be managed by an 11-member board, eight of whom must live in the East Maui communities where the water comes from.

For decades, East Maui residents fought in court to stop a powerful plantation from sucking their streams dry. (Marina Riker/Civil Beat/2022)


Of the 11 members, four will be chosen by the mayor. The council vets the other seven members, one of whom is recommended by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. DHHL has recommended Jonathan Likeke Scheuer, a leading Hawaii water policy expert, for its position.

All of the others chosen by the council must have experience managing water resources, including one member who must have also worked locally in ranching, farming, aquaculture or within loko ia, Hawaiian fishponds. The applicants must also meet specific residency requirements, like living within communities that span from Haiku to Hana or in the Upcountry neighborhoods that have for decades relied on the water that flows from East Maui’s streams.

County officials crafted the board that way so that people with both scientific and generational knowledge of East Maui’s delicate natural ecosystems would have a say in their management. Kalo farmers who fought for decades to restore streams long sucked dry by plantations would finally have the chance to oversee how the water system is run. And so would Upcountry farmers who frequently grapple with drought because of the century-old system that’s struggled to keep up with climate change.

More than a dozen people have already applied for those spots. They include: Francis Quitazol, Christopher Shuler, Brendan Baithazar, William Greenleaf, Jennie Kaahui, Norman “Bush” Martin Jr., Harry Hueu Jr., Moses Bergau Jr., John Blumer-Buell, Alicia Hueu, Jerome Kekiwi Jr., Jesse Nakooka, Lucienne de Naie and Lurlyn Scott.

The council will also consider anyone else who applies through Tuesday. Once confirmed, the board members will then be tasked with choosing the director of the water authority.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by a grant from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

About the Author

Marina Starleaf Riker is a reporter who covers Maui for Civil Beat. You can reach her by email at or on Twitter at @marinastarleaf.