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Who’ll Stop the Rain?

Kïhei seeking solutions to storm-water run-off flooding. “The solution is not simple.”

May 17, 2012
Tom Blackburn-Rodriguez , The Maui Weekly

Maui County Public Works Director David Goode may have summed it up when he agreed with a resident attending the Friday, May 11, community meeting on storm water run-off held at the National Ocean & Atmospheric Administration's Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary meeting room.

Maui Tomorrow, the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council (MNMRC) and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback National Marine Sanctuary organized the evening meeting called "Storm Water: Can a Problem Become a Resource?"

"It is what it is," said Goode, following a comment from a Khei resident about the area's built environment that over the years has placed developments in the path of water running down hill from Upcountry and periodically ?ooding sections of South Maui.

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A community meeting called “Storm Water: Can a Problem Become a Resource?” was recently held at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary next to Kalepolepo Beach Park on South Kihei Road, which, along with many other locations in South Maui, has suffered the affects of flooding as recently as March of last year.

"We can do a lot to mitigate the situation-cleaning out the gulches, that sort of thing-but we can't ignore that this is an environment that has been affected by human activity," Goode said.

George McDonald was one of the more than 50 residents who turned out for the meeting to talk story and share ideas on how to solve the problem of storm water ?ooding.

McDonald has been through six ?oods on South Khei Road, and last winter he spent two days watching the ?oods and seven days in his parking lot at the Luana Kai cleaning up afterwards.

"It took us 30 years to create the problem we have," he said. "The solution is not simple. It's going to cost money, but somebody needs to take a step forward and realize we cannot continue to allow South Khei to ?ood as we do."

"Hopefully, the either the county or the state will come through and alleviate some of the problems that exist on South Khei Road," he added.

Leslie Brown, a 26-year resident of South Maui, attended the meeting because she would like to see "something happen to eliminate the mud and debris that we will inevitably get with the next big rain storm."

"Talk is cheap," she said. "It is unrealistic to think that the big water channels from across the highway funnel down into the tiny little gulch next to us. There is no way it can handle that water. So something de?nitely needs to be accomplished."

MNMRC Boardmember Lucienne de Naie presented an overview on the geography of Khei and the reasons for the impact of storm water, including ?ash ?ooding streams, the loss of former Khei wetlands and gulches that are ?lling up with silt and debris. Then attendees divided into working groups for a lively 20-minute discussion of the problem and to offer potential solutions.

The groups covered a wide variety of subjects, from ?res that denude the hills and lead to ?ooding, to understanding where the ?ooding occurs, identifying the roads that cannot be accessed, and how the Hawaiian names of land areas describe characteristics of that land that must be recognized in any solution to the ?ooding.

The individual group's reports to the main body included a number of suggestions:

Need to protect upland areas ?rst-cars and appliances are being found in gulches;

Implement better storm-water-quality rules;

Create Upcountry vegetated swales and retention basins;

Explore rain gardens and roof gardens;

Study the gullies-width increases water volume and destruction;

Involve Native Hawaiian groups in consultation on how to solve the problem;

Retention basins may ?ll up-anticipate additional ?ltering or catchment for unique storms;

Reduce deer population;

Use permeable pavement in developments;

Address the loss of wetlands and the need for native plants to hold the soil and use the water;

Look to other success stories.

According to meeting organizers, this input will be submitted to the Southwest Maui Watershed Advisory Group (WAG).

WAG will decide the implementation strategy for South Maui ?ooding that will include a draft Southwest Maui Watershed Plan, which will be reviewed and approved by WAG and the state Department of Health, and then go to the public for review.

For more information, contact the Southwest Maui Watershed Project at



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