While this is not a KCA project, we did offer a letter of support for it last year, so we are pleased to see it come to fruition.
The nonprofit Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is working in Hapapa watershed to remove sediment that has accumulated in Kūlanihākoʻi gulch before it reaches the ocean. The organization reports that the effort is part of its ongoing work to improve ocean water quality and prevent the smothering of coral in Māʻalaea Bay.
The grant-funded maintenance work will be performed by a local licensed contractor and will occur between Feb. 13-28, mauka of the Pi‘ilani Highway next to the new high school site, on privately owned land with approval and cooperation from the landowner.
An estimated 1,200 cubic yards of fine silt and sediment particulates will be relocated from the gulch bed to a secure location where it will be stabilized following best management practices, according to MNMRC. The organization reports that the sediment is deposition from recent erosion-causing rain events in the arid area which is plagued by drought and feral axis deer populations.
The project is a collaboration between Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, Kaonoulu Ranch, West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative and partners to protect riparian corridors and reduce land-based pollutants and sediment on Maui’s reefs. “This gulch has a history of producing extensive flooding and brownwater events in North Kīhei, the most recent events in December 2022 and January 2023,” according to MNMRC.
The project is supported by funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the County of Maui. After the gulch maintenance is performed and sediment relocated, MNMRC will work with Kaonoulu Ranch to add 1,800 linear feet of ungulate fencing to the ranch’s efforts to contain the movement of axis deer herds to aid in increasing harvest and decreasing the population size.
The Southwest Maui Watershed Plan identifies feral ungulates and sediment as major issues affecting coral reefs, according to a news release from MNMRC. Additionally, MNMRC is working to design nature-based solutions for coastal flooding in the area and performs coral and fish surveys at coastal sites associated with pollutant inputs.
“The work to reduce sediment runoff in Kīhei is tied to our vision of cleaner ocean water for Māʻalaea Bay,” said Amy Hodges, Programs and Operations Manager at Maui Nui Marine Resource Council. “It’s a multi-pronged approach that will require participation of many groups and work from mauka to makai.”
“Our goal is to create an environment where the coral reefs can thrive and thus help protect the shoreline from storm surge and big waves,” says Hodges. “We also want clean ocean water for the people who use this bay for their livelihood and recreation.”