Cleaning up Waimea River

WAIMEA — Kaina Makua wants to get all of the silt out of the Waimea River.

“It takes up about half of the river. We need more hands,” he said. “The more hands, the faster the job. That’s your basic equation to any hard job.”

Makua, director of Kumano I Ke Ala, a nonprofit group whose aim is to empower a sustainable West Kauai and restore its resources. The group is also the fiscal sponsor of Kilohana Canoe Club, which works to educate Kauai’s Westside kids about the island’s ecosystems.

On Saturday, the group is hosting a community work day to remove the slit that has built up in the middle of the river.

This is the third community work day Kumano I Ke Ala has hosted since March.

“I’m hoping we get at least 400 (people), so we can do some damage,” Makua said. “But we’ll take whatever hands we can get to do hard work on natural resources.”

For Makua, there’s a simple reason why the community should get involved in cleaning up the river.

“It’s water. Everything starts with water. Without it, we’ll pretty much die,” he said. “The divergence of water is bad for anybody who loves mountains, valley, ocean, surfing and diving because it affects every area. When water is diverted, fresh water is going where it shouldn’t and that will effect coral reef, which will effect marine life, which will effect the people who eat marine life.”

For years, water was diverted to the Waimea River through a system of ditches.

But in April, the State Commission on Water Resource Management reached a mediated settlement that “will immediately restore continuous flows in the Waimea River, as well as provide the opportunity for a renewable energy project, water for Hawaiian homesteading, and farming,” according to a release from the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The settlement was reached after Poai Wai Ola/West Kauai Watershed filed a complaint in 2013 against the state-run Agribusiness Development Corporation and the Kekaha Agriculture Association, claiming too much water was being diverted from the Waimea River.

Under the new agreement, tens of millions of gallons of water will be restored to the river daily.

Cleaning up the river will help ensure it is preserved for years to come, Makua said.

“It’s for the next generation, not just ours,” he said.

The cleanup day begins at 7 a.m. and goes until 5 p.m. at the mauka side of the Waimea Swinging Bridge. Volunteers are asked to bring a bucket, shovel, hat, sunscreen and water.

To pre-register, go to www.kumanoikeala.org/waimea.

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