Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023|
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State funds have been released to develop an agricultural water resource for North Kohala.
Capital improvement project funds of $1.5 million were released by Governor Josh Green for the development of the ‘Upolu Well and will fund improvements to the water well to support agriculture in North Kohala. The funds were recently appropriated by the Legislature and will finance the design and construction of pump installation, connecting pipeline, controls, and related improvements to develop an existing well to provide agricultural water distribution.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources plans to convert an existing U.S. Geological Survey observation well on state land near ‘Upolu Road to a well supplying water for farming, dairying and ranching, to help replace water that was lost when the Kohala Ditch was severely damaged in a 2021 landslide. Since that time, there has been no permanent flow in the ditch and it cannot be used for irrigation, dealing a heavy blow to the region’s farmers and ranchers.
Pump tests show the well can supply 475 gallons per minute or 384,000 gallons per day. A 20-foot tall, 660,000-gallon reservoir and water lines running to the east and west are planned to be built. Farmers or cooperatives would privately design and fund simple facilities to convey the water to their use areas.
An Environmental Assessment prepared last October stated the initial phase involves no significant impacts to native fauna or flora, water quality or sustainable yield, traffic, archaeological sites, or cultural practices.
The program’s future phases may convert part of the property to an agricultural park and expand the park to nearby state properties, if sufficient water and demand exist.
“The Kohala community has made it clear that providing affordable agricultural water to producers in Kohala is a top priority,” said Rep. David A. Tarnas who represents District 8. “Making the improvements to this former USGS exploratory well to bring it online as a production well for agricultural water supply is an important milestone. Bringing this well to production capacity should help to provide agricultural water to the producers in the surrounding area. While this well alone won’t be able to supply everyone who needs and wants irrigation water, it is an important part of the overall strategy to support Kohala’s sustainable agricultural economy. I am grateful to the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture for working to support our Kohala farmers.”
The Department of Land Natural Resources (DLNR) is currently overseeing the planning and construction of the ‘Upolu Well project. The Department has already hired an engineering consultant for project planning and design and has collaborated with the Department of Agriculture (DOA) on design reviews. DLNR has received bids on the construction contract and will soon be making the decision to award the contract.
Once the contractor is selected and the contract is finalized, permits from the County are needed to be secured in order to proceed.
When completed, DLNR plans on transferring ownership of the pumping system and storage tank to DOA to manage operations. Once it is online, the well will pump water through the current distribution piping, which extends to the Cloverleaf Dairy property line.
The well will then be capable of providing affordable irrigation water to several farms, dairies, and ranches in North Kohala, continuing the region’s tradition as an agricultural center.
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