homepage logo

New column focuses on West Maui’s ocean community

By Staff | Jan 5, 2017

Aloha readers of the Lahaina News. The New Year brings new beginnings: New leaders. New challenges. New personal resolutions.

It also brings a new bi-monthly column to Maui’s essential community newspaper.

In the spirit of Norm Bezane’s good work celebrating the people, places, history and stories of West Maui, this new column will focus on the world-class ocean community of West Maui.

Surfers, paddlers, swimmers, snorkelers, beachcombers, anglers, sailors, professional athletes, sun-seeking visitors: This column is for anyone who relishes the spectacular coastal zone where the world’s greatest ocean meets one of the most magical coastlines anywhere, right here in West Maui.

The column is called “The Green Room.” Waveriders know this phrase as the euphemism for that secret, sacred space we all seek – the cavernous liquid tube of a hard-breaking wave where skilled surfers can linger for a few fleeting moments.

Just as surfers seek their own vision of beauty and perfection, all of us in West Maui have some ideal vision of how we want our community to evolve in the coming years. Each one of us imagines the future of West Maui as beautiful, sacred and spectacular as the elusive “green room” of every surfer’s dreams.

This column will aim to clarify and capture the people, places, events and issues that shape the West Maui coastal community. The mission is to entertain, to educate, and to engage, in order that we may all better celebrate, understand and shape the ocean culture we all share.

I write as a stoked surfer, a concerned citizen, and chair of the Surfrider Foundation, Maui Chapter. From this vantage point I can see the vibrancy of the ocean-loving community and the challenges West Maui faces right now.

I can also see the interplay of political power, business interests, social needs, individual initiative, community activism, environmental circumstances, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that all together shape West Maui’s coastal community, past, present and future.

Now you know the columnist, the column and the mission.

As we drop into a New Year, here are three key issues that Maui NGOs, including the Surfrider Foundation, will be addressing in 2017.

1. Short-, medium- and long-term strategizing about West Maui shoreline management: The most impacted fronts in the human retreat from the coastline are already well-known: Mile Marker 17 (Ukumehame), Olowalu (between the surf spot and Maui Paintball), and Honokowai to Kahana. Rather than piecemeal, ad-hoc shoreline defense, West Maui will need a long-term strategy to move inland. The well-documented scientific consensus about a warming planet means that glaciers will melt, which will cause sea levels to rise. This issue will shape West Maui’s ocean community for generations to come.

2. Waste management: The wastewater treatment plant in Ka’anapali, for all of the good and effective work it does in cleaning and disposing of human sewage (an underappreciated marvel of modern engineering), has been judged to fall short. The percolation of treated sewage through injection wells into nearshore reefs at Kahekili has been shown to be damaging to local marine biology, and has been found to be in violation of the Clean Water Act. This multi-year, multi-million-dollar lawsuit has become a test case for the entire nation, and with a Trump Administration resetting the agenda of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it’s anyone’s guess how this case will eventually be decided. Nevertheless, the dirty water, compromised marine environment and leaky injection wells will remain, and it will be our challenge to solve.

3. Growth management: Kahoma Village. Wailele Ridge. Plantation Estates Expansion. The timeshare development of North Ka’anapali. An increased density of people and cars. All of these developments and more will have implications for the coastline, as all human activity in West Maui runs into the sea. Development isn’t intrinsically good nor bad. The key question is whether or not West Maui will shape its development in a sustainable way that will protect and honor the magic of our coastline. Cynics may feel gloomy and optimists may feel exuberant, but it’s a fact that West Maui is changing.

It’s my privilege to introduce this column and myself. Contact me with ideas, suggestions and feedback at aoriorda@ gmail.com.