HANAPEPE — The salt beds are flooded on Kauai’s Westside, thanks to a combination of king tides, high surf and blocked drainage.
And even though July is when salt-making is usually in full swing just outside of Hanapepe, nobody is harvesting.
“A month ago it was all dry. Some of us were just getting started (with the harvest), but now it’s flooded,” said Malia Nobrega-Olivera, of Hui Hana Pa‘akai, whose family harvests salt from the beds.
The hui is made up of all of the salt-making families in Hanapepe. On Thursday about 15 of the hui members gathered at the salt beds even though they can’t do anything with the pa’akai right now.
Instead, they met with Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees on island for an overnight visit to Kauai, to rally for the protection of the salt beds.
“What we told them this morning (is) we need to hire an attorney and we need the money (to do it), about $100,000,” Nobrega-Olivera said. “We told them, ‘we need your help.’”
Members of the hui explained the threats to the practice while OHA board members looked at the flooded ponds.
Drainage was one of the problems cited, with hui member Ku’ulei Santos explaining that county work in 2004 blocked the drainage system for the ponds — workers dumped asphalt in the area to stabilize the road to the beach.
Santos pointed out that asphalt is now deteriorating into the salt beds and the stabilized road brings more cars past the salt beds, contributing to another problem: contamination of the beds with dirty sand, flung from vehicle tires, oil and other discharges from vehicles.
Further contamination comes from a camp of homeless people situated alongside the salt pond without proper facilities and people squatting in Salt Pond Beach Park, hui members explained.
Felix Santos, another member of the salt-making families, pointed out the importance of pure water and pure black clay in the salt-making trade.
“It’s an environment issue,” Felix Santos said. “Where is our protection?”
The aviation companies are also on the hui’s list of threats to the salt beds, and they say that’s because of noise and unpermitted improvements on the land near the beds.
On Thursday, the hui asked OHA to help them with money to push aviation companies away from the salt beds.
“We have momentum and we need the money before they expand,” Santos said. “We have to hit them now, before they come into compliance.”
They also asked for support in closing the road that goes past Port Allen Airport and to the beach, pointing out there are other roads that lead to the beach and they “need room to breathe” in the area around the ponds.