OHA trustees hear concerns

LIHU‘E — Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees toured Kaua‘i last week for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Tuesday and Wednesday, trustees made stops across the island, including to the Alakoko Fish Pond in Niamalu, Ho‘omana Thrift Store and Pu‘uwai Canoe Club in Wailua, and Hui Hana Pa‘akai o Hanapepe.

Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau Trustee Dan Ahuna helped to organize the trip, which culminated in two public meetings Wednesday evening and Thursday morning to further discuss community concerns.

Issues on the Westside

At Wednesday’s virtual meeting, Malia Nobrega and Ku‘ulei Santos provided the community with an update on the Hui Hana Pa‘akai o Hanapepe.

“When we were doing the visit, we also talked about what makes this place so special and, you know, we talked about not just the production on the pa‘akai (sea salt), but really the components of the ‘aina that make it so special,” Nobrega said.

Nobrega said the clay is getting harder to find, and the salt shelf that adds to the salinity.

“For some of us, we’ve gone from producing multiple, five-gallon buckets in a harvest, and for the last seven years some of our ‘ohana have gone down to zero production,” Nobrega said.

Pa‘akai harvests, Nobrega said, are not out in the open anymore, too, because people know the value of the salt.

“When we are able to harvest, we now need to take all of this pa‘akai home to our areas where we live,” Nobrega explained.

Other noted issues involving different landowners, including the state and county around the flats, an increase in rain and flooding, use of bathrooms at the airport and nearby beach homeless encampments.

“So the way Hawaiian salt is made, water travels underground, so everything that happens here (impacts) pa‘akai,” Santos said.

Santos said that, since the last OHA visit in 2019, many issues have not been addressed.

“We’re guided by our kupuna to know that we want to be able to make pa‘akai,” Nobrega said. “We don’t know as practitioners what our lives are like without the production of salt.”

Project Malama Ola

Thursday, Kamealoha Smith with the Hanalei River Heritage Foundation streamed live from Hanalei River to discuss the effects of hau bush on the river.

The foundation, after the April 2018 floods, began to work to repair and restore the wetlands on the North Shore’s Hanalei Valley. This is Project Malama Ola, which officially began during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the hau bush covering both sides of the river, the width of the river has been shrinking, Smith said, in addition to issues endangering the natural habitat, fishponds and irrigation systems.

“Most of the hau bush we’re cutting out is actually in the marsh area, between the stream bank and the river itself,” Smith said.

They come early in the morning, do protocol and documentation, and then start cutting and moving the green waste debris out, Smith said. This is not only steam-bank restoration, but also part of cultural restoration.

About 100 feet of stream bank has been cleared, Smith said.

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Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or sbodon@thegardenisland.com.

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