Residents seek full restoration of water flow in Kahoma Stream
LAHAINA – In March, history was made in Hawaii, specifically on the West Side.
Following a landmark decision by the Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management (CWRM), instream values for four West Maui streams were designated protected, including Ukumehame, Olowalu, Launiupoko and Kauaula streams.
The resolution recognizes traditional and customary rights, mauka-to-makai flows, gathering of native species, taro cultivation and protection of fish habitat, ecosystem services, aesthetic and recreational values and water quality.
The trend for instream flow standards (IFS) continues northward to Kanaha and Kahoma streams, with the CWRM publication of a Draft Instream Flow Standard Assessment Report, Island of Maui, Hydrologic Unit 6008, Kahoma.
Kahoma is situated on the western flank of Puu Kukui Mountain, covering about 5.79 square miles from 5.764 feet elevation to the sea. It is composed of two main branches: Kahoma and Kanaha streams.
An IFS is defined by the CWRM as a quantity of flow of water or depth of water required to be present at a specific location in a stream at certain specified times of the year to protect fishery, wildlife, recreational, aesthetic, scenic and other beneficial instream uses.
The IFS Assessment Report is a compilation of the hydrology, instream uses and non-instream uses, related to a specific stream and its respective surface water hydrologic unit.
The Kahoma evaluation can be found online at dlnr.hawaii.gov/cwrm/surfacewater/ifs/kahoma_ifs/.
At a recent public fact-gathering meeting held at Lahaina Intermediate School on Oct. 9, the over 100-page draft analysis was placed under the microscope.
Hydrologist Ayron Strauch, representing the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, CWRM, facilitated the meeting.
After a brief, yet detailed, summary of the study, he told attendees, “If you have new information to provide us, we want that. We want to put it in the report. We want your local knowledge to go into the decision-making.”
“We compile all your testimony,” Strauch explained. “We provide it as a submittal to the commission. The commissioners are the decision-makers. They are the ones that analyze all of these various factors and make a final decision.”
Of the approximate 70 in attendance, about 25 shared their mana’o. Some were lineal descendants; others were nonprofit volunteers and community leaders. Local educators, administrators and farmers stood up with a collective voice.
Most agreed, not all, but there was a common positive ground – to share this vital resource for the benefit of all.
Kanoe Steward, born and raised in Lahaina, is a Kula Kaiapuni kumu at Lahaina Intermediate School. She testified, like many, asking for “full stream restoration of Kahoma Stream and two million gallons to Kanaha Stream.”
She had hard data in her armory of information to back her recommendations.
Working with the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii in the Marine Conservation Fellowship Program, Steward had the opportunity to work closely with the Division of Aquatic Resources.
She participated in biological surveys conducted at Ukumehame, Olowalu, Kauaula and Kahoma.
Steward was inspired by the findings.
“The fact that we observed all five species of o’opu is a huge indicator of the health and quality of this fresh water,” she observed.
“If you were to fully restore Kahoma Stream and then add in the stream flow from Kanaha – because those two connect – Kahoma has the opportunity to be one of the most thriving freshwater ecosystems Even with the concrete channel and increased development down the road, not only will full restoration improve the freshwater ecosystems, but it will also improve the marine ecosystem down in Mala.”
Another educator at LIS, Kekai Keahi, shared his experiences.
“I grew up in Mala Village fishing, diving. At the same time, we used to go up mauka, up here in Kanaha we used to farm taro up there.”
“I love to see full flow from top to bottom,” he advocated. “With the return of water, you give life one chance.”
Hokuao Pellegrino, representing the Na Wai Eha nonprofit, spoke in support of restoration efforts.
“I wanted to share the importance of this process and why interim instream flow standards are so important – not just for the streams but the overarching benefits that it has had throughout the community” like “the return of Native Hawaiian families to their ancestral kuleana lands.”
He observed other advantages of restoration, including the groundwater recharge and “how fast aquatic species can return back to these streams. Kahoma is a fine example of that.”
Further, “I am happy to see that there’s going to be efforts to put back water into Kanaha Stream,” citing its historic relationship to Lahainaluna High School.
Lynn Kahoohalahala is the principal at Lahainaluna High School.
“I am here to speak on behalf of Lahainaluna High School. Right now, I consider myself the steward of the school. It’s part of my life journey. God has put me in this place right now,” the Lahainaluna High School graduate said.
“New days are happening at Lahainaluna High School and it is all dependent on the wai.
“We are now expanding our agricultural program. We’re reopening the lo’i kalo; we are going to expand our food production now that we have a working tractor; we are refreshing the land around our school, especially the land that was burned.
“We have an agreement,” Kahoohalahala continued, “with the Department of Land and Natural Resources. We’re going to reforest our hills with native plants; we are repairing our irrigation system both for how we water our school and for our ag learning system.”
Kahoohalahala is excited but has reservations about the restoration of the stream waters.
“My concern though is that Lahainaluna High School’s water rights not be altered or reduced or taken away. For we have had those water rights for over 184 years, given to us by the ali’i,” she said.
She is protective of her alma mater.
“I am claiming our appurtenant rights for Lahainaluna High School; for Kanaha is our only source of water that Lahainaluna High School has to depend on,” she added.
Community organizer Tiare Lawrence attested to the importance of full restoration of the waters in Kahoma.
“We currently have three functioning lo’i in full production. By the end of this month, we’re going to have two more lo’i in production. By the end of this year, we plan to have seven lo’i in production. By the end of next year, if all goes well with negotiations with Kamehameha Schools, we plan to have a total of at least ten to 15 lo’i,” she said.
“Kahoma is a beautiful template of resilience,” Lawrence observed. “Ten years ago, this stream was dead. To see the abundance return proves to me Mother Nature is resilient if we give her life.”
Most of these lo’i are located on Kalepa kuleana lands.
Archie Kalepa has witnessed the benefits of the rise of the river and the importance of place.
“Kahoma and Kanaha can be a role model for the future,” he commented.
“We just need to start looking at an ahupua’a system and matrix system attached to that, so that we can begin to learn how to develop.”
“As long as that stream flows, then life thrives. Our community can survive.
“We have to get away from the idea of putting people first.
“Let’s take care of our place,” he suggested.
The CWRM is accepting additional comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All testimony will be included in the revised draft report, and then it will be submitted to commissioners.
They are going to meet on Maui on Nov. 20 at the Veterans Memorial Hall on Fleming Road.