Controversy is brewing in Maui over the questionable response from local officials to the wildfires wreaking havoc across the island.
Primarily at issue is water, or the lack thereof.
On Aug. 10th, the West Maui Land Company sent a letter to the Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM) deputy director M. Kaleo Manuel complaining about a delay in diverting water to fill the reservoirs that were being used by local firefighters to battle the flames.
“According to the letter, although the initial fire was contained at 9 a.m., there were reports of fallen power lines, fierce winds, outages and low reservoir levels, prompting the company to reach out to the commission to request approval to divert more water from streams so it could store as much water as possible for fire control,” as reported by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“Instead of approving the request, CWRM asked the company whether the Maui Fire Department had requested permission to dip into the reservoirs and directed it to first inquire with the downstream user to ensure that his loi and other uses would not be impacted by a temporary reduction of water supply.”
According to reports, Manuel — seen below — was responsible for this bizarre decision:
Here is M. Kaleo Manuel, the Hawaii water official who refused to release water resources and let landowners fight the Maui fire, explaining his “philosophy” about water:
“Native Hawaiians treated water as one of the earthly manifestations of a god…We’ve become used to looking… pic.twitter.com/hjsWqdVtxf
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) August 17, 2023
As seen above, Manuel appears to be an environmentalist who worships water. Whether or not he’s actually responsible for the water delay remains unclear, though Hawaii Gov. Josh Green, a Democrat, appears to believe he is.
“One thing that people need to understand especially those from far away is that there’s been a great deal of water conflict on Maui for many years. It’s important that we’re honest about this. People have been fighting against the release of water to fight fires. I’ll leave that to you to explore,” he said during a press conference Monday.
“We have a difficult time on Maui and other rural areas getting enough water for houses, for our people, for any response. But it’s important we start being honest. There are currently people still fighting in our state giving us water access to fight and prepare for fires even as more storms arise,” he added.
Manuel was once lauded by the Obama Foundation as an “Asia-Pacific Leader.”
“Kaleo is the Deputy Director of the State of Hawaiʻi Commission on Water Resource Management. He believes that ancient wisdom and traditional ecological knowledge of native peoples will help save the Earth. Kaleo is passionate about elevating native and indigenous ways of knowing in all spheres of discourse and dialogue,” his blurb reads.
The good news for those who believe Manuel is responsible is that an investigation has been launched and he’s been shuffled off to another role within the department, though the department maintains he did nothing wrong.
“The purpose of this deployment [to another position] is to permit CWRM and the Department to focus on the necessary work to assist the people of Maui to recover from the devastation of wildfires,” a statement shared with Civil Beat reads.
“This deployment does not suggest that First Deputy Manuel did anything wrong. DLNR encourages the media and the public to avoid making judgments until all the facts are known,” it continues.
Manuel isn’t the only one under fire. So is Herman Andaya, the administrator of Maui County’s Emergency Management Agency, who reportedly refused to sound the sirens when the fire erupted last week.
“Andaya, who heads up the agency, said in a news conference Wednesday that the sirens are primarily for tsunami and therefore, the public would have run inland — toward the flames,” according to local station KHNL.
“We were afraid that people would have gone mauka and if that was the case then they would have gone into the fire,” he told reporters.
Reporter grills Maui Emergency Operations Chief Herman Andaya over not sounding the alarm on Maui.
Andaya: “The public is trained to seek higher ground in the event that the sirens sounded. If that was the case, then they would’ve gone into the fire.” pic.twitter.com/pkOVEfUVwB
— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) August 17, 2023
But locals say the excuse is BS.
“Several residents have told HNN that the sirens would have alerted them that something was wrong and they would have looked outside or at least, prepared to evacuate,” KHNL notes.
Last up is the Hawaiian Electric. The Washington Post reported that, prior to the fire, the company “did not deploy what’s known as a ‘public power shutoff plan,’ which involves intentionally cutting off electricity to areas where big wind events could spark fires.”
“Hawaiian Electric was aware that a power shut-off was an effective strategy, documents show, but had not adopted it as part of its fire mitigation plans, according to the company and two former power and energy officials interviewed by The Washington Post. Nor, in the face of predicted dangerous winds, did it act on its own, utility officials said, fearing uncertain consequences,” according to the Post.
That’s three strikes for Maui officials who evidently don’t know how to do their jobs correctly, but who do likely know what their so-called “gender pronouns” are …
Guy in charge of Maui emergency management knows nada about emergency management. The guy in charge of the water in Maui shut water off. Maui Electric grid blew down – they didn’t shut power off. Citywide emergency sirens didn’t work. I bet they all know their pronouns tho.
— Samuel Culper 722 (@politiwars) August 17, 2023
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