Wetlands Going Dry
Disappearing Mana`e wetlands cause concern.
By Brandon Roberts
The lack of zoning enforcement on Molokai’s wetlands may bring serious environmental problems and cultural violations. Community leaders met with Mana`e (East End) residents to discuss development which is potentially damaging the wetlands in the area.
The lo`i (irrigated terrace) and the loko i`a (fishpond) are intrinsic with the culture and represent a living balance between the po`e (people) and the `aina (land). Some of the development may be irresponsible and indiscriminate.
The non-profit organization Malama Pono O Ka `Aina hosted the meeting last Saturday at the Kilohana Community Center, to gather input from the residents. Guest speakers included Rep. Mele Carroll, DLNR Branch Chief Randy Awo, and cultural specialist Vanda Hanakahi. Community members also gave valuable testimony.
“Indigenous knowledge cannot be ignored,” kumu `Opu`ulani Albino said. “Best practices are found in the people who live with the land.”
Carroll revived the ‘Aha Kiole advisory council on Molokai and across the Hawaiian Islands The `Aha Kiole exists as a bridge between the farmer, the hunter, the homesteader, the community, and state legislators.
Hanakahi, chairwoman of the `Aha Kiole council, made a cultural presentation, explaining why the Mana`e coastal lands are a vital part of the Hawaiian culture.
“We want to create a Hawaii that Hawaiians would like to see,” Hanakahi said.
Prior to the meeting, Carroll, along with Awo and other officials took an ocean excursion to survey the development on the wetlands in Mana`e.
The meeting was a chance for Carroll to listen to residents’ concerns and receive public comments on hb2788. The bill seeks to prohibit wetlands development that did not include a “public informative meeting”before a permit is issued.
“What do you want to see in your community?” Carroll asked. “My role is to convey the message of the people.”
Awo gathered notes on community concerns, from jet skis on the reef to zoning infractions on the wetlands . He reassured the attendees that he would speak with the proper agencies and follow up on these concerns.
Possible zoning infractions were photographed by Malama Pono O Ka `Aina and presented at the meeting in a slide show. The photographs show homes that speckle the Mana`e shoreline, some with Ho`olehua red dirt piles intended to fill the wetlands.
This imported earth may contain heptachlor, an insecticide used on the old pineapple plantation fields. Many residents fear water contamination. Exposure to heptachlor has been linked to liver damage and is associated with an increased risk of cancer.The Environmental Protection Agency banned heptaclor in 1978, yet it still lingers in the environment.
Other wetland residents may have illegal sea walls, boat ramps, and roads through the loko i`a. In some instances, shoreline trees were cut and bulldozed right into the ocean.
Attendees were frustrated with the lack of consistency and communication between various governmental agencies, as well as inadequate enforcement. Currently there is no zoning enforcement agency on Molokai, and meeting attendees feel this is one reason why there is wetlands abuse.
Malama Pono O Ka `Aina President Linda Place wants to “work together to protect the wetlands.” She said this is possible through a “management swap,” which would transfer sensitive coastal lands into the protective custody of an appropriate governmental or non-profit entity.
Malama Pono O Ka `Aina strives to “assure development that is lawful and respectful of the environmental health and historical culture of Mana`e, Molokai,” according to its mission statement.
Malama Pono O Ka `Aina will host its next meeting March 13 at 5:30 p.m. at the Kilohana Community Center. All interested persons are encouraged to attend and share their mana`o.