HONOKOHAU — Centuries ago, those who lived here knew how special this place was.
It’s here, at what is now Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, that the water flows beneath the ground and out to the bay, mixing with the saltwater to create an environment perfect for the ‘ama‘ama, or mullet, whose predators can’t tolerate the lower salinity.
The ancient Hawaiians knew this, and they took advantage of the fish’s movements by constructing a massive wall to create the Kaloko Fishpond.
By using channels and gates in the wall that controlled the fish’s entrances and exits, they were able to create a sustainable source of food for themselves.
Today, the mullet, awa and papio still swim back and forth through the channels built into the ancient wall, currently being reconstructed by park masons.
Nearby, seemingly lifeless anchialine pools teem with opae ula, the tiny red shrimp that make their homes in the brackish pools.
But park rangers here fear that increased use of the island’s limited freshwater resources at current and proposed wells, combined with decreased rainfall and rising sea levels, could upset the delicate ecosystem that relies on the balance of fresh and salt water.
As a result, they’re asking the state Commission on Water Resource Management to step in and designate the Keauhou Aquifer, which covers a vast region from Makalawena Beach to north of Kealakekua Bay, a water management area.
Designation would give the Park Service a chance to weigh in on the future of water withdrawals in the area.
That would include for any applications by developers to build new wells mauka of the park’s boundary. By having a chance to challenge permits, park staff could officially voice their concerns about potential impacts those wells could have on the park’s ecosystems.
Not everyone is on board with the proposal though.
Opponents to designating the aquifer say the National Park Service hasn’t shown any evidence that there’s a problem. Commission staff have already filed a report recommending against the designation, instead offering several alternative recommendations.
A hearing on the proposal is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday (14 Feb) at the West Hawaii Civic Center.
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