Oppose Unqualified Political Appointee to the Water Commission

Posted by Lauren Muneoka at Apr 04, 2012 09:55 PM |
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Hearing Thurs. Apr. 5 @ 1:15 pm

WHO:    Senate Committee on Water, Land and Housing
WHAT:   Hearing on GM 755:  Confirmation of Ted Yamamura to the State
Water Commission
WHEN:   Thursday, April 5, 2012, 1:15 pm
WHERE:  Capitol Bldg., Conference Room 225

Aloha kakou!

We need your kōkua, yet again, to uphold Hawaiʻi’s Water Code and the
integrity of the Water Commission.  Please take a few minutes to send
in testimony on this critical issue.  More information below:

The Senate Committee on Water, Land, and Housing (WLH) just scheduled
a hearing on the nomination of Ted Yamamura to the Water Commission on
Thursday, April 5 at 1:25 pm – right before the Easter long weekend
(hearing notice here:

For weeks now, people have been questioning the Governor’s
appointment process and, in particular, whether Yamamura meets the
Water Code’s requirement of “substantial experience in the area of
water resource management.”  For background on this ongoing
controversy, see this article at:

In the face of this controversy, the WLH Committee has taken the
unusual step of scheduling an informational briefing by Water
Commission Deputy Director Bill Tam and the Nominating Committee
responsible for the short list of candidates to explain how these
picks were made.  The briefing is scheduled for 1:15 pm, ten minutes
before the hearing on Yamamura’s confirmation (briefing notice here:

Please come to both hearings and send in testimony opposing Yamamura’s

Why does this matter and what’s wrong with the process?
The Water Code and Commission were established after the 1978
Constitutional Convention to manage water as a public trust for
present and future generations and move beyond the plantation-era
politics of a handful of interests monopolizing water for private
profit.  As the Code mandates, the Commission is supposed to be a
panel of experts with a requirement of “substantial experience in the
area of water resource management.”  HRS § 174C-7(b).  Further,
because the Commission has been consistently dominated by “Big Ag”
water diverters, the Code was amended in 2003 to reserve a seat for
someone with “substantial experience or expertise in traditional
Hawaiian water resource management techniques and in traditional
Hawaiian riparian usage such as those preserved by section 174C-101.”
HRS § 174C-7(b).

What should you do?
Despite these clear requirements, Yamamura does not meet the
qualifications.  He is a land appraiser from Maui, lacking
“substantial experience in the area of water resource management.” Any
commercial valuation of water that may occur in land appraising has
nothing to do with managing water resources as a public trust.  See,
e.g., In re Waiahole Ditch Combined Contested Case Hr’g, 94 Haw. 97,
180 n.96 (2000) (explaining that any financial value of water for
eminent domain purposes “is inapposite to any analysis under either
the police power or the public trust”).

In addition, there are significant questions about the integrity of
this process.  Clearly qualified applicants were passed over for
Yamamura.  Also, Yamamura is from the Nā Wai ʻEhā area of Maui, where
Maoli and local groups have been struggling to restore stream flows
diverted by plantation ditches.  At minimum, this raises improper
appearances of attempting to influence this and other Maui cases.  In
fact, including the pending nominees, four of the five appointed
Commissioners would be from the single island of Maui.  In short,
politics continues to improperly subvert the law and expertise in the
management of our most precious resource.

Despite these and other concerns, the informational briefing is
scheduled only ten minutes before the confirmation hearing, giving
concerned community members no time get more information before taking
a position and submitting testimony on the issue.

Please send in testimony today:  (1) opposing Yamamura’s confirmation
and (2) asking the Committee to reschedule the confirmation hearing
until after the public has adequate opportunity to review and respond
to the informational briefing.  Mahalo piha!

More information on GM 755 is available here:



Testimony Opposing GM 755:  Yamamura’s Nomination to the Water Commission

April 5, 2012, 1:25 p.m.
Conference Room 225


Testimony should be submitted via the legislature’s webpage at:
emailed to WLHtestimony@capitol.hawaii.gov
or faxed to 586-6091 (or 1-800-586-6659 from neighbor islands).


Aloha Chair Dela Cruz and Members of the Committee:

My name is __ and I am testifying in strong opposition to GM 755,
nominating Ted Yamamura to the State Water Commission.

Hawaiʻi’s Water Code mandates that any Commissioner have “substantial
experience in the area of water resource management.”  HRS §
174C-7(b).  This requirement is vital to ensure that the trustees of
one of Hawaiʻi’s most precious resources are qualified to serve in
this expert, objective, and fiduciary role.  Mr. Yamamura fails to
meet this basic prerequisite.

The management of water resources goes far beyond the valuation of
land or even water connected with land.  As the Hawaiʻi Supreme Court
explained, the duty of a trustee over water resources is much more
than the role of a “business manager,” or a mere “umpire calling balls
and strikes.”  This trustee role is too important to be handed to
political appointees lacking the necessary expertise.

Moreover, many actually qualified applicants were passed over, raising
serious questions about the integrity of this process.  That also
casts doubt on whether the Water Code’s qualifications were given
sufficient consideration.

In addition, more representation is needed from other islands.
Including the pending nominees, four of the five appointed Water
Commissioners will be from the single island of Maui.  The Water
Commission’s public trust obligations extend throughout the state, and
other islands require representation as well.

Please vote to deny Mr. Yamamura’s nomination.  Mahalo for the
opportunity to testify on this important issue.

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