We Are Our Island’s Keepers - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Authors

Edwin (Ekolu) Lindsey

Edwin (Ekolu) Lindsey leads Maui Cultural Lands, Kipuka Olowalu, Polanui Hiu, organizations focused on restoring coastal and reef areas. Through decades of work with the Maui Nui Makai Network and his service on several advisory boards, Ekolu speaks for those that cannot — coral, fish, pohaku, plants, and ohana who are not physically with us today.

Makalea Ane

Makalea Ane leads community engagement and partnerships for The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii and Palmyra. She has worked with indigenous communities and government agencies on ocean and coastal conservation issues for the public, private, and non-profit sectors across Hawaii for more than two decades.


We are children of Maui, children of Hawaii, children of the sea. We are taught that the ocean is our life, it is where we come from. We are taught to malama i ke kai a malama ke kai ia oe, to care for the ocean and the ocean will care for you.

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We embrace this kuleana and we know that many of you do as well. That’s why we are asking you to join us in support of efforts to build community and reef resilience at Olowalu, Maui.

The area between Papalaua and Olowalu has long been known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant reef, home to the largest manta ray population in the U.S. But if you’ve visited the area lately, you probably noticed something else.

As a result of rising sea levels, Olowalu’s beaches are eroding, and its highway — the only road connecting West Maui with the rest of the island — experiences chronic flooding.

The reef that slows wave energy, protecting the coastline and community from the power of the sea is also in decline. Recent research confirmed that it lost 45% of its corals during the 2015 statewide bleaching event, and water quality monitoring confirmed that sediments carried from mauka watersheds settle on the reef where they displace, smother, and sometimes kill coral.

The good news is there are several efforts underway to address these issues. The Hawaii Department of Transportation is planning to move four miles of Honoapiilani Highway inland, so it won’t be constantly inundated by waves.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife is identifying areas for mauka restoration to reduce sediment loads on the reef, and its Division of Aquatic Resources identified Olowalu as one of five priority areas for coral restoration to proactively build the reef’s resilience.

A preliminary figure showing the proposed realignment of Honoapiilani Highway.
A preliminary figure showing the proposed realignment of Honoapiilani Highway. DOT

These efforts provide us with opportunities to malama i ke kai and restore the aina in ways that support our culture, our island ohana and future generations. By restoring nature’s infrastructure, including reefs, wetlands, beaches, and sand dunes, and implementing effective mauka-makai management, we can help our islands adapt to climate change in ways that are less costly and more sustainable than engineered hard surfaces.

Maui County’s proposed West Maui Greenway from Ukumehame to Lipoa Point provides additional opportunities to restore and protect our natural infrastructure.

It is often said that change begins at home. We hope you will join us to make positive change for our island home by supporting these nature-based solutions to strengthen coastal and community resilience at Olowalu.

And by all means, if you want to get your hands dirty or get in the water, we encourage you to volunteer with Maui Cultural Lands or Kipuka Olowalu to restore loi kalo and native landscapes, or with Hui O Ka Wai Ola to monitor coastal water quality.

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About the Authors

Edwin (Ekolu) Lindsey

Edwin (Ekolu) Lindsey leads Maui Cultural Lands, Kipuka Olowalu, Polanui Hiu, organizations focused on restoring coastal and reef areas. Through decades of work with the Maui Nui Makai Network and his service on several advisory boards, Ekolu speaks for those that cannot — coral, fish, pohaku, plants, and ohana who are not physically with us today.

Makalea Ane

Makalea Ane leads community engagement and partnerships for The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii and Palmyra. She has worked with indigenous communities and government agencies on ocean and coastal conservation issues for the public, private, and non-profit sectors across Hawaii for more than two decades.


Latest Comments (0)

"Division of Aquatic Resources identified Olowalu as one of five priority areas for coral restoration to proactively build the reef’s resilience." Coral reef restoration is essential to slow the rate of coastal erosion as sea levels continue to rise. In addition to reducing silt and mud runoff from land that smothers corals, we must replenish populations of parrotfish (uhu) and other seaweed-eating fish. These lawnmowers of the reef prevent seaweeds from outcompeting corals for living space. The Kahekili Herbivore Replenishment Area just up coast toward Lahaina shows that these fish will return if given a chance.

MAH · 3 weeks ago

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