Over eons, nature developed an effective system of balance for the South Maui watershed. Forests grew atop the region nourished with moisture when the rains came and their roots held the soil in place, as the gravity forced water-carved rivers down to the kai. At the base, she developed estuaries or muliwai to catch the rushing waterflow to slow it down and allow the solids to sink as the water settled. The clear water then seeped into the kai.
Then, mostly in the prior century, this was all undone. Forests were clear cut, debris of all matter was dumped into the dry river beds, which became drainageways, and the muliwai were drained, filled in and high rise buildings were built there. As this process expanded, development exploded and populations, both permanent and transient, grew as did the negative effects of messing with mother nature.
In the current century, mitigation was explored and considered. Here is a report in the Maui News from 2004:
We had the “flood forum” at the Whale Sanctuary in 2011:
Since then the Southwest Maui watershed plan proceeded:
We have the draft Kihei Master Drainage Plan in 2017:
Then finalized in 2020:
And this year the much improved version:
Sadly what we never have is ACTION. Mitigation has to commence up top physically. Doing nothing but plan and study changes nothing. The flow of water has to be slowed by retention and detention. In agricultural land, water should be used for irrigation to grow food and nourish farm animals. River debris has to be removed. The stellar RE TREE HAWAII program has to be supported.
With these remediation efforts happening upcountry, while the muliwai can’t be restored quickly, at least we may be able to preserve the minimalist wetlands we have left.
How many more mud flood events can we endure in South Maui?