The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, in partnership with the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC), presents this documentary detailing recent victories and developments in the struggle of Native Hawaiians to return water diverted for nearly 150 years from streams in East Maui. The new Kamakakoʻi film called Hoʻi Ka Wai – Return the Waters, aired simultaneously on KGMB, KFVE and KHNL from 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm on Thursday, April 23, 2020 and was supported by live streams on HawaiiNewsNow.com, the OHA and NHLC Facebook pages, and simultaneous livestreams on partner Facebook pages.

For the last 30 years, NHLC has fought a lengthy legal battle alongside the kalo farmers, gatherers, stewards, and fishermen and women of East Maui—all in an effort to restore water back into their streams, lo‘i kalo and fisheries after more than a century of diversions. OHA has worked in tandem with NHLC to support community advocacy efforts to return the stream waters to its rightful place.

On May 5, 2020 the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court will hear the long-contested Carmichael vs. BLNR and Alexander & Baldwin case over state water diversion permits in East Maui. NHLC’s clients are asking the State’s highest court to end, once and for all, the State and Alexander & Baldwin’s 30-year long exploitation of public trust resources for commercial profit under the guise of “temporary” revocable permits to escape environmental review. The East Maui community waged this decades-long water battle not only to safeguard their water rights, but to protect our natural resources and the rights of all communities across our pae ʻāina.

Efforts to build community awareness and support are needed to ensure that no one is above the law when our public trust resources are at stake. The Supreme Court ruling is very significant, for it will set a precedent that will affect all water rights cases throughout the pae ʻāina.

Read the latest news on the contested case here:

Maui News: State Supreme Court Agrees to Hear East Maui Water Case

“The law has been clarified in all of the water cases that have been litigated, and yet, it’s something that unfortunately the water commission continues to ignore.”

— Kapua Sproat, Director of the Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law