small logoPublic Meeting: Skippy Hau (DLNR)
Save Honolua Coalition

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This week's Save Honolua Coalition speaker was Skippy Hau, an aquatic biologist, who works for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources.  Skippy studies altered streams including diversions, channelization, and development impacts of the alteration on the environment and marine life.  After a 100 years of diverting stream flow, we now see a variety of impacts to the native ecosystem.  Diversions interrupt life cycles of animals, preventing the dispersal of newly hatched larvae. Man made changes to many of our island streams, namely stream channelization and diversions, have resulted in a loss of native Hawaiian vegetation.  This loss of a vegetation canopy and channelization creates a reduction in shading over streams, resulting in increased water temperatures, which does not provide a suitable habitat for  endemic species.  Also, an intermittent stream allows only a fraction of the natural upstream migration of these endemic species. Channelization of stream beds helps to increase rapid drainage, but decreases groundwater recharge.  Skippy stated that the health of our aquifers depend on healthy water recharge in the watershed.

Skippy has primarily studied the Iao Stream which runs through Wailuku and Happy Valley.  According to Skippy, what we have learned from diverted streams will not significantly change reported impacts of
stream diversions. Unless water flow is restored, there will be no healthy migration of native stream animals.

Currently, there is no plan or funds to study the Honolua Stream. Skippy suggests that more can be gotten if our group will support the petition to restore flow for NA WAI EHA and East Maui petitions which are currently being addressed by the Water Commission. Skippy feels that our State needs to establish "an instream flow standard" for all streams throughout the islands.  The petition for East Maui does not include all streams but selected ones which can be used to increase taro lo'i production, like the Honokohau and Honolua stream.

Stream flow from the mountains to the ocean is necessary for natural productivity and a healthy native ecosystem, to support indigenous species of various types of limu (algae) as well as o'opu (fish),
opae(shrimp/prawn) and hihiwai (mollusk).  Many of the streams on Maui have been diverted over a hundred years.  Without water there is no habitat for aquatic resources.
Once the stream flow is diverted and original stream beds dry out, these types of marine life die out. Without continuous flow and regular recruitment, stream populations cannot survive.  The opae, hihiwai, and 'o'opu cannot climb waterfalls or reach the continuous parts of streams that have diversions.  It is very possible with restored stream flow to restore life to this ecosystem.  Skippy believes that restoring stream flow will also improve the health of the estuary which will act as nursery area for both freshwater and marine organisms, not just fishes but the overall ecosystem.

Skippy emphasized that because we do live on an island, we really need to pay attention to "small" things as they generally are good indicators of the overall health of an environment.  We need to utilize management strategies that apply to an island ecosystem, as opposed to those that are commonly utilized on the mainland.  He urged us to be aware of the water cycle on our island.  To ask the important questions like: where does our water come from, where does it go and are we using our water resources efficiently?  Skippy said sometimes to solve water problems, we need a different perspective and he also stated that despite our best efforts to prevent it, there will be "new" species introduced to our island environment in the future.