Maui Official Responsible for Delaying Water Release Reassigned

A wildfire burns in Kihei, Hawaii late Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. Thousands of residents raced to escape homes on Maui as blazes swept across the island, destroying parts of a centuries-old town in one of the deadliest U.S. wildfires in recent years. (Ty O'Neil/AP)
Ty O'Neil/AP

M. Kaleo Manuel, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) deputy director of water management, has been reassigned following public criticism of his role in a decision to delay allocating water to landowners during the Maui fire.

As Breitbart News reported earlier this week:

A state water agency in Hawaii has been accused of delaying the release of water from a traditional farm that landowners reportedly wanted to use to protect their property as the Maui wildfire spread last week.

Honolulu Civil Beat reported:

With wildfires ravaging West Maui on Aug. 8, a state water official delayed the release of water that landowners wanted to help protect their property from fires. The water standoff played out over much of the day and the water didn’t come until too late.

According to the sources, Manuel wanted West Maui Land to get permission from a taro, or kalo, farm located downstream from the company’s property. Manuel eventually released water but not until after the fire had spread. It was not clear on Monday how much damage the fire did in the interim or whether homes were damaged.

Manuel participates in the Obama Foundation’s Leaders Asia-Pacific program and prioritizes traditional local views on water.

Honolulu Civil Beat reported Wednesday that Manuel has been reassigned, though the DLR has also defended his conduct. Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez is currently investigating the fire as part of a review of the state’s response, or lack thereof.

Fox News confirmed Friday that Manuel has been reassigned, following reports that water that could have been used to help fight fires was not diverted from local streams in time, and that reservoirs near the wildfire were dry at the time of last Tuesday’s fire.

Fox News also reported that officials are still investigating the reason for the failure of water pumps in Lahaina, the city that was largely destroyed by the wildfire. One possible cause is that a power failure may have disabled pumps in the local water system.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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