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Harbor Improvements, Flooding Top Ma‘alaea Meeting Concerns

Ma‘alaea Community Association shares accomplishments and challenges, including ending “the runoff into the condos and reducing pollution in the bay.”

January 19, 2012
Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez , The Maui Weekly

On Tuesday, Jan. 10, the Ma'alaea Community Association's (MCA) annual meeting at the Maui Tropical Plantation was the beneficiary of music from Ikaika Blackburn as he entertained the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce, which was meeting in a nearby courtyard.

This glimpse of Ma'alaea condo residents meeting near a gathering of Native Hawaiian business people and their associates paints the picture of Maui better than any glossy tourist brochure, setting a harmonious tone for the association's meeting which was educational, congenial and willing to work on common problems without rancor.

And there are problems--included most prominently among them, the flooding of Hauoli Street last winter complete with mud flowing onto condo properties and the collapse of the culvert leading into Ma'alaea.

Article Photos

Glynnis Nakai, manager of Kealia Pond and National Wildlife Refuge (left), and state Sen. Roz Baker discuss the status of the environmentally protected areas before Nakai gave the keynote presentation at the Ma‘alaea Community Association’s annual meeting.

There is also the ongoing destruction of near shore reefs and water turbidity, an aging septic sewage system, the need for pump-out stations at Ma'alaea Harbor and the threat of sprawling development across from the Honoapi'ilani Highway.

The reefs will require greater attention to water flow in the entire South Maui ahupua'a watershed plain from the mountains to the sea.

The septic system may eventually require a county intervention to meet increasing stringent EPA standards.

The pump-out stations are part of a $16 million harbor improvement project which--according to state Sen. Roz Baker--is expected to be completed by Valentine's Day 2013, and perhaps as early as the fall of this year if the contractors, Hawaiian Dredging Constructing Co., stay ahead of schedule.

However, it may be the flooding that will pose the greatest challenge.

In her presentation to the meeting, keynote speaker Glynnis L. Nakai, manager of the Kealia Pond and National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), presented a detailed update on the area, including the construction of a new visitor and administrative center funded by federal stimulus money. She emphasized, "Everything we do is designed to protect the water birds, but especially these two endangered species," referring to the 'alae ke'oke'o (Hawaiian coot) and ae'o (Hawaiian stilt), both of which were listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1970.

Nakai pointed out that Kealia Pond is located at the base of two watersheds, receiving three streams from the West Maui Mountains and two streams from Haleakala. This location results in seasonal water conditions that are beneficial for the endangered water birds and warrants their protection.

When water in the main pond (approximately 200 acres of open water) is high, the Hawaiian coot nests within the flooded vegetation. As the water starts receding in April, the coots are completing their breeding season and the stilts start their nesting season. Stilts nest on the exposed pond bottom close to water so chicks can forage and feed, and near vegetation for shelter.

Much of the work at Kealia Pond NWR includes wetland management--water level management, invasive species control and native out-planting.

Water level is managed to supplement natural conditions for the water birds' life history requirements (foraging, resting, breeding), but it is also managed to control the nuisance issue of spotted-winged midge abundance in winter, dead tilapia when the water recedes, and blowing sediment and dust during the dry summer and fall months.

Residents and Maui County Councilmember Don Couch suggested that to mitigate the flooding, the path of one of the streams that flows down a gulch into the refuge from the West Maui Mountains might be shifted slightly, so that there could be some settling instead of what Couch called, "raw muddy water draining into Ma'alaea Bay."

Recognizing that this option would require careful study, because it would change the ecology of the area, Couch said his goal is "ending the runoff into the condos and reducing pollution in the bay."

"Let's see if we can curve the water a little bit and not have it be concentrated in one area," Couch said when he addressed the group, which had already raised the question with Nakai after she finished her presentation.

Nakai expressed a willingness to explore the alternative, but said it should be approached with caution following a thorough, expert evaluation with an eye toward the impact on the endangered species the law requires her to protect.

It was respectful approach to a challenging dilemma and seemed to be well received by Couch and those assembled in the room.

Also speaking at the meeting, Rep. Angus McKelvey called for active citizen participation in the legislative process, and Mayor Alan Arakawa outlined his administration's initiatives to "redesign government and readjust our government to make it more efficient."

Elected to serve on the association's board of directors were Tim Collins, Jeanne McJannet, Rick Miller and Gary Smith.

To find out more about the accomplishments of the MCA in 2011, visit



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