Friday | November 24, 2017
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State eyes hike to well permit fees

Permit fees for drilling water wells and installing and repairing pumps will surge under new rules being considered by the state Commission on Water Resource Management.

The fee will increase by more than tenfold from $25 to $300. The fee applies to private wells in addition to wells constructed and operated by the county Department of Water Supply.

Fees haven’t been raised since 1987, said Roy Hardy, groundwater hydrologic program manager for the commission.

“We were kind of the best deal in town,” Hardy said.

Public hearings on the rule changes are slated for 6 p.m. Nov. 8 at the West Hawaii Civic Center and 6 p.m. Nov. 9 at Aupuni Center in Hilo.

The rules state “no well shall be constructed, altered or repaired and no pump or pumping equipment shall be installed, replaced or repaired without an appropriate permit from the commission.”

There were about 600 public and private wells on the Big Island, according to a commission survey in 2005, the latest data immediately available.

The fee hike won’t make a significant difference to the Department of Water Supply’s annual budget nor will it cause a rate increase, said Manager-Chief Engineer Keith Okamoto.

“Although it’s a substantial increase percentage-wise, I don’t think it will have an impact on water rates,” Okamoto said. “It will be factored into our overall operating expenses, but it will be a small addition.”

The number of private wells is increasing, Hardy said.

“There’s been a big increase in private wells statewide as people move farther off the grid,” Hardy said. “They need a well to build their home.”

He said the commission decided on the amount of the fee increase after looking at data showing how much it typically costs the state to issue a permit, including researching water availability in certain aquifer systems, inspections and paperwork. The $300 is somewhere in the middle of commission costs, he said.

Well-drilling companies contacted Monday declined comment until they could read the proposed rules.

Fines for noncompliance also would go up under the rules, from $1,000 to $5,000. The increase covers general fines for violations concerning water use, wells and stream diversion.

Hardy said the fine increase is more a housekeeping measure, as the state law changed several years ago allowing the increased fines.

After the draft rule is taken out for public meetings, it is revised if necessary, and then submitted to the commission for final approval. Then it is reviewed by the attorney general, and after signing by the governor and filing with the lieutenant governor, it has the effect of law.

Testimony will be accepted at the public meetings, and written statements can be mailed to the Commission on Water Resource Management, 1151 Punchbowl St., Room 227, Honolulu, HI 96813, up to one week after the hearing date.

The rules can be viewed at http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/cwrm/aboutus/regulations/#draft.

Email Nancy Cook Lauer at ncook-lauer@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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