When a Stream Bows Out

Charles Miguel Sr. digging out the sand plug at Waialua Stream. Note high water under bridge. Photo courtesy Debra Mapel

Over time, streams naturally change their course. But in the case of Waialua Stream, on Moloka‘i’s eastern end, that natural process has been helped along by some very unnatural events.

Taro lo‘i once fed by the stream have been abandoned, with the invasive Java plum now taking over. Mountain slopes upstream have been largely denuded by introduced deer and feral ungulates, burdening the stream with rocks and mud. A new (1972) bridge over the stream near its mouth raised the roadway embankments, increasing the flood plain area mauka of the bridge.

In response, the channel has bowed out, and the more meandering stream is no longer able to blow out the sand that collects at the mouth.

Efforts by local residents who now have to live with the flooding that has resulted from all these changes are at their wits’ end. The outcome – a crackdown by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health, and, possibly, the Commission on Water Resource Management – may be legally justified, but it hardly seems fair.


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