Flooding highlights need for effective management of waterways

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Dan Ahuna, Vice Chair, Trustee, Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau

In the aftermath of the torrential floods that took place on April 14th of this year, our community on Kaua‘i has become keenly aware of the importance of management of our watersheds and water systems. Many areas have been reshaped and we are forced to consider our plans for future management. This is golden opportunity.

Effective management of our waterways is often impaired by rigorous permitting systems and bureaucratic red tape that make it costly for communities to effectively partake in the maintenance and upkeep of traditional systems. It is often large landowners who have resources to hire attorneys and cut through the red tape and gain the necessary permits to restructure water systems in ways that benefit them alone. We have seen many examples of how the actions end up having devastating impacts on the rest of the community at some point.

If community-based organizations and government agencies could work together to create a streamlined process that allows for greater access and more maintenance for our water systems, we would help growing markets such as small-scale food producing farms. The disastrous floods have been eye-opening in numerous ways. The emergency declaration that the county of Kaua‘i has been under has meant that permitting requirements have been lifted so that debris can be cleared from the waterways.

This has been enlightening and our community has gone to work quickly and effectively. But when the declaration is pau and the restrictions are put back in place, our communities will be handcuffed again. We must work now to ensure we have a more effective process to allow our community stewards access to maintain safe and proper water flows.

I have been communicating with community members and government officials in an effort to maximize this opportunity we have. However, this will take some major political will and significant community input. I am requesting that community-based management organizations reach out to their networks and have them contact their elected officials at all government levels and request that community-based water management systems be given the utmost attention and that a plan be developed that empowers our community to ensure safe and maintained water systems. Please contact my office for more information.