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On The Rebound: Natural Resources Bounce Back After April Floods

Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

Flooding and heavy rains in April caused severe damage to the road and natural landscape on Kaua?i’s North Shore. Access to communities at the end of the road has been limited to local residents for more than eight months. As HPR’s Ku?uwehi Hiraishi reports, this isolation has allowed the area’s natural resources to rebound.

Even before the April floods, H??ena residents were concerned about the impact of overconsumption of natural resources along Kaua?i's North Shore. From overtourism to overfishing...

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi
Uncle Presley Wann points out the boundaries of the Ha'ena Community Based Subsistence Fishing Area.

“Our place was being loved to death,” says Presley Wann, “H??ena was getting loved to death.”

Wann helps oversee Kaua?i's community-based subsistence fishing area along the H??ena coastline. He says large boulders and sedimentary runoff caused temporary damage to the reef but the fisheries seem to be rebounding.   

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi
A monk seal enjoying the empty shores of Ke'e Beach at the end of the road on Kaua'i's North Shore.

“I’m not a scientist but I can tell you what I’ve seen. We’ve seen fish moving closer in,” says Wann, “We’re seeing encouraging signs of abundance, especially some of the fish that our kupuna and community thought were endangered.”

It?s been eight months since heavy rains took out the only road in and out of H??ena. Since then traffic has been limited to local residents.

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi
The Kalalau Trail hike along the Na Pali Coast is one of the more popular tourist attractions at the end of the road in Ha'ena. The trail has been closed since the April floods.

“It’s been good to you know let the place come back to where it should be,” says 27-year-old Keegan Algrin.

Like many H??ena residents, Algrin finds himself returning to the beaches he grew up fishing and playing on.

“You know we’re just embracing the time and the moment as it is right now,” says Algrin.

The state Department of Transportation aims to re-open the road to the public at the end of January. Wann hopes that can be done with greater protection of the natural resources along the H??ena coast.

Credit Ku'uwehi Hiraishi

“We gotta change our priorities,” says Wann, “Our priorities are taking care of that that feeds us in our ocean and our land, our ??ina. If we keep that in mind, it makes it so simple – take care of that which feeds us.”

In many ways, says Wann, the April floods were a cleansing of sorts.

“You know where we have this opportunity to again say, ?Wait a minute, we’ve got to put a handle on this,?” says Wann, “We have this one opportunity to correct and rectify all these things that were getting out of hand.”

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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