The state of Hawaii and the federal government have initiated a program to help reduce urban runoff on Maui that is contributing to the demise of Maui’s coral reefs off the west side of the island. According to an AP news report, coral reefs off Kaanapali and other areas off west Maui are some of the most damaged reefs in the state due to sediment runoff, fertilizers, and other elements that flow into the ocean.
The first phase of the Army Corp. of Engineering and state Department of Land and Natural Resources project will involve technical studies designed to assess the health of the coral reefs. These studies, the report says, will give officials a better understanding of where the land-based pollution is originating, and will provide solutions designed to address the problem. Part of the reason these reefs are being damaged is due to the flow of water down old plantation roads to the sea with no place for this water to be absorbed by the aina, or land. The project aims to change that.
The project will study pollution that is generated across 24,000 acres on Maui ranging from Kaanapali to Honolua Bay and from the summit of Puu Kukui to the outer reefs. Those involved with the study hope to find ways to address the problem. For example, at higher elevations, solutions may call for the preservation and restoration of native forests by culling invasive plants and feral animals such as wild pigs as well as reduce the risk of fire. Wild pigs are known to uproot forest areas that cause erosion on all of the main Hawaiian islands. These solutions should help to retain soil and water and prevent this water from flowing to the ocean. Other projects could focus on the restoration of eroded streams and replanting agricultural roads that are no longer being traversed.