The Office of Naval Research, the same folks that brought Hawai’i the notorious classified Applied Research Laboratory (UARC), is funding research on Maui to grow biofuel for military use. In the past, Hawaii Commercial and Sugar and other sugar plantations wrongfully diverted water from the streams on the windward sides of most islands for commercial agriculture. This has been a disaster for native stream life, marine ecosystems and traditional Hawaiian agriculture that depend on the water. Now that sugar is phasing out in Hawai’i, there is an opportunity to restore streams and the native ecosystems as well as restore the kalo (taro) agriculture that was the staff of life for Kanaka Maoli.
Hawai’i is dangerously food insecure. It is estimated that there is only a week’s worth of food on the island if shipments were to be cut off. Yet, according to an AP article “Hawaii’s sunlight, warm weather and rain — on average — allows farmers to grow more plants per acre than other parts of the U.S.” So why are we growing military fuel instead of food?
Traditional kalo farmers and environmentalists have challenged HC&S to return of water to the Na Wai Eha (the four waters) in East Maui. They won increased allocations for the streams.
But according to the AP: “The Navy identified Hawaii as a priority location for biofuel production because it’s home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet and about a dozen cruisers, destroyers and frigates that rely on petroleum.” So the Navy’s intense presence in Hawai’i could make it the greatest threat to the restoration of streams, native ecosystems and Native Hawaiian cultural practices.
The AP reports:
HC&S is facing two legal challenges to its practice, dating back more than a century, of diverting water from east and central Maui streams to irrigate its fields in the arid plains. The complainants in both cases are primarily Native Hawaiian, and they argue the plantation is diverting so much water from their streams that they’re unable to grow taro, the source of the Hawaiian food staple poi, and catch fish like their ancestors.
Alan Murakami, a lawyer for Native Hawaiians seeking to have water restored to streams in east Maui, said HC&S’ research should be done on the premise that the company will return water to the disputed streams.
“If they simply assume that the water will be available, for whatever fuels, however thirsty they may be — including continuing the sugar plantation — that would be entirely inappropriate and unacceptable planning for the future of Maui,” Murakami said.