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Maui Nui Marine Resource Council’s work to prevent sediment runoff to begin in Pohakea watershed

MĀʻALAEA, HI – As part of  ongoing work to improve ocean water quality in Māʻalaea Bay, Nui Marine Resource Council is working in partnership with Goodfellow Bros. in the Pohakea watershed to do maintenance on a steep existing dirt road, to prevent it from eroding and sending sediment into the ocean — and to allow it to serve as a firebreak to suppress wildfires in this fire-prone region.

A firebreak is a gap in vegetation or other combustible material that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a wildfire. Firebreaks are strategically located to ultimately reduce the size, intensity, and impact of wildfires. In this case, the work focuses on restoring firebreak functionality to an existing access road,  including the reestablishment of waterbars and stormwater erosion control measures. The creation of firebreaks will help reduce the impact of wildfires which strip the vegetative cover from the land and lead to erosion during stormwater events.

Additional work planned by Maui Nui Marine Resource Council includes  routine vegetation maintenance along the edges of the dirt road to keep fire fuel load low, to improve its ability to serve as a firebreak.

The work will begin on Wednesday, Monday, December 14 and will continue through December. The Pohakea watershed is a 5,268 acre area with the majority located mauka of the Honoapiʻilani Highway across from the Mā‘alaea Triangle. The grant-funded firebreak installations will take place on both private and publicly owned land (State of Hawai‘i Land Division) with approval and cooperation from the landowners and the State. The planning for this work was done in collaboration with the State of Hawai‘i DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) as part of a larger conservation management strategy for the watershed.

Wildfire suppression was listed as a high priority in the “Pohakea Watershed Stormwater Management Plan,” an action plan for reducing sediment runoff into Māʻalaea Bay authored by Maui Environmental Consulting and commissioned by Maui Nui Marine Resource Council. Past wildfires in the Pohakea watershed have been a health and safety issue for the community and have caused the loss of vegetative covering in the watershed, leading to soil erosion during heavy rains.

“We are very pleased to work with the professional team of Goodfellow Bros. of Maui to install these firebreaks,” said Mike Fogarty, Acting Executive Director at Maui Nui Marine Resource Council. “The Goodfellow Bros. team will be following established best management practices (BMPs) to install the firebreaks with the least impact to the surrounding area. And of course, all State and County COVID-19 guidelines for outdoor work of this type will be strictly adhered to by all who are working on this project.”

This project is supported by funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Hawai‘i Tourism through the Aloha ‘Āina Program, and the County of Maui Office of Economic Development. Local funding from individuals, businesses, resorts and foundations have also helped to make this work possible.

After the firebreaks are installed, Maui Nui Marine Resource Council will be working with volunteers to plant vetiver, a non-invasive, deep rooted, clump grass used in tropical climates, along with native dry-land species, to stabilize hillsides and stop erosion.

“The work to reduce sediment runoff from the Pohakea watershed is tied to our vision of cleaner ocean water for Māʻalaea Bay,” says Amy Hodges, Programs and Operations Manager at Maui Nui Marine Resource Council. “It’s a multi-pronged approach that also includes installations of caged oysters in the bay to remove sediment and other pollutants from the water.”

“Our goal is to create an environment where the coral reefs of Māʻalaea Bay can thrive and thus help protect the shoreline of Māʻalaea from storm surge and big waves,” says Hodges. “We also want clean ocean water for the people who use this bay for recreation.”

Hodges notes that Māʻalaea Bay is home to two canoe clubs, several popular local beaches and a much-frequented fishing area. Māʻalaea Harbor is a launching place for private and commercial ocean tours, and is famous for its “Freight Trains” surf break. Sea turtles feed outside the harbor, and visiting Hawaiian monk seals, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles and a variety of fish are not uncommon.

To learn more about this project, please visit www.mauireefs.org.

Funding for our work in Pohakea is provided by:
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Hawaiʻi Tourism through the Aloha ʻĀina program
County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development

Please note: The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its funding sources. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government, or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation or its funding sources.


About Maui Nui Marine Resource Council:

Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is a community-based nonprofit organization celebrating 13 years of working for healthy coral reefs, clean ocean water and abundant native fish throughout Maui County. Our work includes co-managing the Hui O Ka Wai Ola Ocean Water Quality Monitoring Program in South and West Maui, efforts to reduce pollution in Mā‘alaea Bay (through erosion-control efforts in the Pohakea watershed and using oysters to filter sediment and pollutants from ocean water), coral reef research, visitor education programs and more. Learn more at www.mauireefs.org.

About Goodfellow Bros.:
Established in 1921, Goodfellow Bros. (GBI) is a fourth-generation family-owned heavy-civil contractor with headquarters in Hawaii and Washington and more than 99 years of experience in the construction industry. For nearly a century, GBI has transformed regions across North America and abroad. With 12 offices in Washington, Oregon, California and Hawaii, GBI’s range of projects include: airports, bridges, reservoirs and dams, golf courses, harbors, highways, housing developments, marinas, parks, underground utilities construction services, wastewater treatment facilities, wind and solar farms, fisheries, wildlife habitats and more. To learn more, visit: www.goodfellowbros.com

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