Flooding that turned coffee fields into wastelands of rock this week has Kainaliu coffee farmers asking how the water can be managed in a way that doesn’t pit neighbor against neighbor.
When rain clouds parked over the Kona coffee belt and dumped up to three inches an hour on Thursday, Nasi Fernandez’s coffee orchard became a deep-cut gorge of mud and bare rock, coffee trees uprooted and buried, an acre and half of land stripped and rendered unusable. When the channel exited his property, it charged through Shawna Gunnarson’s farm, leaving trenches and boulder fields through her coffee trees. It filled her pastures with mud, flooded greenhouses and outbuildings, and ripped out fencing and irrigation.
“It was like a freight train,” she said. “Terrifying.”
Saturday, Gunnarson estimated the flood has cost her at least $20,000, not counting an acre of lost orchard and the labor it will take to dig out buried coffee trees so their roots don’t smother under the new layer of soil.
Gunnarson doesn’t blame the Fernandezs for the landslide of rock and flood debris any more than that family is able to pinpoint the source mauka of their own farm. But it begs the question a lot of folks along the road have been asking themselves over the past couple of days.
“How will development up mauka be managed in such a way that that it doesn’t affect the people down below?” asked Ruth Fernandez, standing at the edge of a muddy road with other farmers and neighbors Saturday.