LAHAINA - The state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) are currently conducting a comprehensive watershed study for the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative.
The study will expand the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-funded Wahikuli-Honokowai watershed to the Honokahua, Kahana and Honolua watersheds in West Maui.
DLNR and USACE seek input from affected federal, state and local agencies; Native Hawaiian organizations, individuals and practitioners; and other interested private organizations and parties.
A public scoping meeting will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 4, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Lahaina Civic Center.
For more information, contact Cindy Barger in Honolulu at (808) 835-4029.
Tuesday's meeting represents the official launch of the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative. The background and next steps for the initiative will be shared, along with updates from watershed management planning efforts in Wahikuli and Honokowai.
Maps of Kahana, Honokahua and Honolua will be used to collect community input about key resources and threats to coral reefs from land-based pollution in these watersheds.
Tova Callender, West Maui Watershed & Coastal Management coordinator, explained that the public will be involved in a variety of ways, including public and small group input meetings, leading or helping with implementation projects funded by community and other grants, attending and participating in outreach and educational events through a social marketing campaign and other means that will evolve as the project progresses.
"While government agencies are leading the formulation of the watershed management plans with public input, implementation will happen at the community level," she said.
"The success of this initiative is tied to the engagement of landowners; businesses; individuals; neighborhoods; local nonprofit, government and other organizations; homeowners... wanting to take action to address land based-pollution because they care about our environment and want to do the right thing for their community and generations to come."
According to DLNR, West Maui has some of the most severely impacted coral reefs in the state.
In West Maui, nearly one-fourth of all living corals have been lost in the last 13 years.
Without dramatic steps to restore favorable conditions, reefs statewide risk rapid degradation, DLNR reported.
Causes of coral reef decline are complex and not yet fully understood, but land-based pollution is known to be a serious threat to coral reef ecosystems.
Increased sedimentation associated with loss of forest land, historical agriculture practices, stream channelization and rapid development have impacted coral reef health.
Led by DLNR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Honolulu District, the initiative will engage various federal and state agencies and organizations in the implementation of a strategy to reduce the threats of land-based pollution to coral reefs in West Maui.
As an initial step, a number of federal agencies and organizations are funding technical studies and public education efforts to support the DLNR- and Corps-funded watershed plan.
DLNR and other agencies will implement priority "on-the-ground" actions as they are identified, while the DLNR- and Corps-funded watershed plan is developing the comprehensive strategy.
"The initiative is important because the concentration of resources and focused management mean better coordination, communication and more strategic actions, which increase the odds of success at improving coral reef health before it is too late," Callender said.
The West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative expands on the 2011 U.S. Coral Reef Task Force designated priority partnership for the Kaanapali to Kahekili area.
The proposed 24,000-acre West Maui Watershed study area extends from Kaanapali northward to Honolua and from the summit of Pu'u Kukui to the outer reef. It includes the watersheds of Wahikuli, Honokowai, Kahana, Honokahua and Honolua.