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The Central Maui Soil and Water Conservation District has begun work on creating a comprehensive watershed plan to address land based sources of pollution entering Maalaea Bay and Maalaea Harbor. Three watersheds including Pohakea, Waikapu, and Waiakoa all flow into Maalaea. Working with the Hawaii Department of Health Clean Water Branch, Maui County, the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, the Maui Ocean Center, biologists from Kealia Pond, and stakeholders in the community, the Central Maui Soil and Water Conservation District has begun the Maalaea Watershed planning process to reduce land based pollution entering Maalaea Bay.

In 2018, the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council began working on a project, called “Vision for Pohakea,” to reduce sediment and pollutants in Maalaea Bay and Maalaea Harbor. Pohakea is the name of the watershed measuring about 5,268 acres upslope from Maalaea Bay. Pohakea watershed has several gulches that all discharge into Maalaea Bay and the harbor.

The first part of their “Vision for Pohakea” is a proposed pilot project to use oysters to help improve ocean water quality at the harbor. As filter feeders, oysters can remove sediment, bacteria, heavy metals, PCBs, oil, micro-plastics and nutrients from the water column. Oysters also digest the type of bacteria that cause skin-borne illnesses such as Staph and MRSA. The proposed project is modeled after several successful projects on the East Coast involving the use of oysters to improve water quality, including the highly effective NY/NJ Baykeeper project at Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey.

Maui Nui Marine Resource Council is also working in the Pohakea watershed to prevent sediment-laden runoff, debris and pollutants from entering the bay and harbor. MNMRC hired Maui Environmental Consulting, LLC to prepare the Pohakea Stormwater Management Plan. Considered a precursor to a full blown watershed plan that will include Pohakea, Waikapu, and Waiakoa watersheds, projects in the Pohakea Stormwater Management Plan are already being implemented to improve water quality in Maalaea Harbor and Maalaea Bay. 

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