A nonprofit organization will begin dredging the 500-year-old, 8-acre Loko Ea fishpond on the North Shore next week.

Rae DeCoito, executive director of the Malama Loko Ea Foundation, said it has taken more than five years to acquire the necessary permits to begin dredging.

The 404 Nationwide permit allows the organization to remove 15,000 cubic yards of sediment from the bottom of the fishpond, which will then be used to rebuild the fishpond’s eroding banks. Once the restoration is complete, the fishpond will produce over 4,000 pounds of fresh fish every year, according to a press release.

Malama Loko Ea Foundation
The 500-year-old Loko Ea fishpond will soon be able to produce over 4,000 pounds of fresh fish every year for the North Shore community. Courtesy: Malama Loko Ea Foundation

The removal of the sediment will reconnect the fishpond to Uko’a, another fishpond a little over half a mile away. Loko Ea and Uko’a are both sand-dune ponds in Waialua that are connected to the ocean by a stream. Together, they are the third largest existing wetland on Oahu, according to the MLEF website.

“For us, we feel like we’re letting her breathe again,” Decoito said in an interview. “This is a living thing for us. It’s not just a body of water that can and will generate fish and food. It’s really a sacred site and it’s a labor of love.”

In the last half century, the fishpond has been congested by at least 3 feet of sediment, causing the bottom of the fishpond to rise closer to the surface. By utilizing the sediment to rebuild the eroded fishpond banks and deepening the water to reduce high temperatures and restore oxygen levels for the fish, the foundation will be using an innovative approach to restore a traditional fishpond.

Loko Ea fishpond has not been in operation for 40 years, and DeCoito said it will be the first fishpond to be dredged in several decades due to the lack of funding. To purchase and ship over a dredging machine from the mainland, MLEF raised $300,000 through its Amapo Ea campaign in 2019.

DeCoito said although not all fishponds need to be dredged, many of them do, and the foundation intends to help others once its own project is completed.

“Some fishponds will never be fully functioning and thriving until they’re dredged,” DeCoito said, adding that people who are in Hawaii for generations to come don’t care how long it will take if there’s a solution. “That’s our whole goal — to have fully functioning and thriving fishponds.”

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