The State Board of Land and Natural Resources Friday approved the holdover of a revocable permit for water use at the Blue Hole Diversion, which allows Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative to operate two hydroelectric facilities that contribute 1.5 megawatts of energy to the island’s renewable portfolio, according to a KIUC news release.
The action was taken at the BLNR meeting on Oʻahu last Friday. The diversion allows a portion of the water to flow from the North Fork of the Wailua River through a series of ditches to the Upper and Lower Waiahi hydroelectric plants.
The hydros and ditch infrastructure were built in the 1920s by Līhuʻe Plantation, and have enabled diversified agriculture to continue in the Wailua and Kalepa areas to this day. Other downstream uses of the system include drinking water for the County Department of Water and ecotourism businesses.
“We are pleased that the holdover was granted and will continue to work with the State in pursuit of a long-term lease for the Blue Hole Diversion,” KIUC President and CEO David Bissell said. He added the hydro facilities are KIUC’s lowest-cost source of generation, and displace the use of 500,000 gallons of diesel every year.
A critical step toward execution of a lease is for the State Commission on Water Resources Management to set Interim Instream Flow Standards for the river.
“We understand from CWRM’s testimony today that they may be ready to release a draft of their IIFS recommendations as early as March,” Bissell said. “KIUC has been assisting CWRM in its data collection efforts and we look forward to participating in that important community discussion.”
KIUC will also be consulting with the Department of Hawaiian Homelands on their water needs.