We are now in the beginning months of Phase 2 thanks to additional grants from the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA), the Hawai’i Community Foundation (HCF), and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). This funding allows us to continue to maintain the integrity of our 93 sediment dams and ensure that our 18 miles of fencing are repaired as needed. We will also be growing an additional 10,000 plants for further restoration. Our field crew will build 20 more dams and cover another 10 acres with erosion control fabric. This will further protect Pelekane Bay from overland sediment flows during future storm events.
We are also adding weather stations at key points throughout our Kawaihae watershed management area. They will monitor daily rainfall and soil moisture levels, helping us to anticipate plant survivorship and choose suitable planting areas. They will also give us detailed and accurate information about weather patterns and climate changes over a broad period of time. We are also installing water depth monitors in the streams. Since the storm events happen in remote areas and move rapidly over a very localized area, these monitors are the only way for us to measure rainfall as it relates to sediment flow and erosion damage. Right now, this is all guess work. We see the sediment caught in our dams and we go down to the Bay and see the chocolate brown coastal waters, but we don’t know how much rain caused the damage. These monitors are the final piece in that dynamic.
This is the final entry in this blog. We will soon be launching our own Kohala Watershed Partnership (KWP) website: www.kohalawatershed.org. Look for it this Fall.
For further information on KWP and to volunteer for our bi-monthly workdays, please contact Melora Purell at Coordinator@kohalawatershed.org
We are now 16 months into our 18 month timeline. Not too much can be seen from the roads that skirt the perimeter of our site. All that might catch your eye as you drive by at 45 mph are small sections of new fenceline, a couple of water tanks, and some strange looking horizontal lines in the distance that are rows of sediment stop fabric. But if you had the opportunity to walk the 6000 acres inside the fence, all the hard work of our 13 member crew and numerous interns would be fully evident.
We are either on, or ahead of, schedule with all our “deliverables”, which is grant-speak for “the things we said we would do.”
With 2 months to spare, the 18 miles of fencing is complete and beautiful to behold. It not only defines the area inside the watershed, but its main function is to be an effective and durable barrier to the constant pressure of goats, pigs and cattle.
This fence had to go over stream crossings, rocky outcroppings and steep ascents:
The three strands of barbed wire on top are necessary as it is the only deterrent to the cattle who would otherwise just knock it right down.
To manage the voids created by the fencing having to straddle a stream crossing, a very innovative technique was used:
These heavy rubber matts are looped to the fence and then to each other. They not only let the stream flow and debris pass under them during a rain, but remain an effective barrier to feral animals who are unable to scoot under them.
Because of the extended and serious D4 drought conditions, the pace of our outplanting was considerably slowed by having to design and install a gravity flow irrigation system. We built a 35,000 gallon water tank that will remain on site to augment Parker Ranch’s holding system. We also added several temporary tanks that will be removed when the plants no longer require additional irrigation. That time required to incorporate the irrigation in the planting plan actually decreased the number of trees our crew could plant in a day by 300%. Unfortunately we had no other options, if the plants were to survive.
Also because of the drought, Parker Ranch had to relocate all of their cattle to greener pastures. The unexpected upside for us was that the ranch then allowed us to use all the water stored in their holding tank for our plants. That saved our project lots of money and lots of time that would have been spent trucking water. Thank you Parker Ranch!
Our restoration crew has wrapped up their seed collection and propagation. They are now concentrating on potting up what has sprouted and outplanting what is ready.
The plants are grown in both dibble tubes: And 3″ pots:
To date, they have outplanted 20 different native species totaling 30,000 plants, most of them fed by a temporary drip system.
Some of them go in very small, like these ‘a’ali’i (Dodonaea viscosa) and koai’a (Acacia koaia):
Now, they are the tallest plants on the landscape, pushing up persistently above all the invasive weeds and grasses that surround them.
Some are even seeding for the first time, so we expect to begin to see natural regeneration from those soldier plants. It is an amazing and exciting sight to see, like this kulu’i (Nototrichium spp.) in full flower.
The task of maintining the manual irrigation sytem and making sure each plant is getting watered is a monumental juggling act. Irrigation is always problematic, even in the best of circumstances. Long distances must be traversed in order to get to the various, natural drainage areas that we have chosen as the best sites to plant. Here two of our restoration crew are hiking down into Luahine Stream and up the other side to check on one of their planting pods.
What they are scrambling through are the existing non-native plants and grasses that found their way there once the ancient native forest had disappeared. But, the large tree on the far right is an intact native tree, wiliwili (Erythrina sandwicensis). These magnificent survivors are highly drought tolerant and dot this watershed in small populations, such as this one, that is just downstream:
With “wai” (water) there is life. Without it, none of our plants would have survived the serious drought conditions. But we have finally gotten some winter rains and so are collectively breathing easier. We have had 3 storm events this year, each dropping significant moisture on this parched land. One in March and then one in both November and December. The November 19th storm dropped 4″ in one hour right in the middle of our watershed. The sediment dams that our crew built admirably weathered that stress-test (see a previous post titled “The Ulitimate Test” under the category “Innovations and Discoveries.”)
Here our sediment dam (rock, groundcloth and wire) has successfully ponded the flowing sediment that would have all flowed into Makeahua Stream below, ultimately ending up in Pelekane Bay.
Because we layered native Hawaiian seeds into the rolls of sediment-stop fabric we installed in the eroding gullies, we are expecting to see multitudes of seedlings sprout, both in the captured sediment and along the course of the flowing water. Without the rains, we have been left wondering if there is a seed repository lying dormant in what little soil is left. Maybe now we will begin to find out. Since we infused the sediment fabric with only 3 seed species, any other native plants that volunteer will have been provided by plants that may or may not still be surviving on site.
Our field technician has gathered an immense amount of data that is visualized on maps generated by our GIS (Geospacial Information System) software. This identifies all the activites on the ground, including irrigation, outplants, sediment dams, planting populations, fencing and storm events. It also includes all the data around seed collection sources and the success and failures during propagation, transplant and outplant. This information is critical, not only for our own continued work, but for the wider island restoration community with which we are inter-connected.
There is much more work to be done and much more to learn. Our hope is that we get the opportunity to continue our work with the capacity we have built. As our field crew leader said early on: “There is a lifetime of work on this mountain.” We have made just the first step on that journey.
Our 61 sediment dams, 10 acres of sediment stop fabric, and 31 storm water samplers have been in place for many, many months. All we needed was enough rainfall to test our design and construction, and to collect water run-off data. That wait ended on Friday, November 19. A seasonal storm, moving down the island chain, bringing flood warnings, thunder, and torrential rain, traveled over the watershed. So, first thing that morning, our Coordinator, Melora Purell and Field Technician, Cody Dwight, started walking the area, snapping pictures and collecting water samples.
The 2 pictures below are of new, untested sediment stop fabric. Depending upon the gradient of the slope, the rows are specifically spaced. The steeper the grade the shorter the distance between rows. The theory is that the water will flow through but the sediment will be caught in the fabric, preventing it from flowing into the stream that empties into Pelekane Bay. The fabric is also supposed to prevent the creation of head-cutting gullies that are the major contributors to soil erosion and overland sediment flow.
After the storm, which only lasted a few hours, we found mostly “good news.”
Most of the sediment stop fabric remained anchored and did its job of catching the flowing sediment.
Here you can see the reddish sediment has ponded behind the cloth which just barely contained it. The large rock on the down-stream side was probably responsible for flattening the cloth as the flow tumbled it down hill.
You can see how many rocks were carried in this flow, easily over-topping this cloth. A sediment dam constructed of stacked rocks and secured with wire and fabric will be retrofitted here to manage the volume of water that is captured in this gully.
We did build a rock dam here and it just barely contained the huge volume of sediment that was stopped just before it headed to Makeahua Stream below. If we are lucky enough to have a span of time between storms, volunteer seedlings are sure to sprout, populating and securing this sediment.
It looks like the flow over-topped this dam, with the force of the water hitting the resistance of the wall and backwashing sediment over the dam and leaving that trough on the upslope side.
For the 15 months we have been on this site, Makeahua Stream has been bone dry. Friday it was a gushing, muddy riverway that was barely navigable.
This wide slope showed that water flowed overland, further exposing the previously secured and half-buried rocks, and taking a considerable amount of soil with it. It is surprising that no head-cutting gullies were created with such a powerful storm event.
This is what Melora and Cody found where Makeahua Stream empties into Pelekane Bay:
A wide flood plain is saturated and thick with the sediments from the stream. The vegetation was beaten down by the torrent, and small, stranded fish were stuck in the muck.
We are still gathering and analyzing the storm water samples, but from the bottles that Melora collected from the stream, the sediment was extremely fine and stayed suspended in the bottles, with no agitation, for more than half a day. This is bad news, for three main reasons: finer sediment stays suspended for longer periods of time, compromising water quality and the amount of sunlight that reaches the corals in the bay; the finer the sediment the more it collects, covers, and clogs the few corals that remain; and these finer particles are more easily re-suspended by normal ocean current patterns and wave action, creating a continuing cycle of damage.
And finally, this is what it looked like along the near South Kohala shoreline: the brown swath across the entire picture is the suspended sediment.
Makeahua Stream enters Pelekane Bay near the center of the photo. It is between the constructed breakwater of Kawaihae Harbor on the right and the heiau (Hawaiian temple) of Pu’ukohola National Historic Site, on the left.
Summer is a good time to find students available and interested in short- term, paying internships. When it works right, the employer gets extra helping hands and an infusion of youthful energy and optimism. The intern earns a little spending money, gets a good break from school, and learns a whole lot about a field that interests them. As a bonus, new friends can be made and some students’ career ideas take an unexpected turn in the direction of the internship.
We needed 5 interns this summer for our various crews and programs. We posted the openings on www.hear.org, www.hawp.org/kohala.asp, and with Hawai’i Youth Conservation Corps (HYCC). We received a phenomenal response. Applicants came from as far away as Oregon, Colorado, Costa Rica, as well as O’ahu and our own island. By the time we finished reading resumes and holding interviews, we found what turned out to be the perfect mix of skills and personalities. To say that they all arrived each morning jubilantly and ready to work hard is an understatement. Two even drove the 3 hour roundtrip from Hilo to Waimea.
By coincidence all the interns we hired turned out to be women. They ranged from a former police officer with children in college to a just-graduated high school senior.
They were not coddled. All were expected to learn quickly, get filthy, and keep up with our normal crew activities, which are quite rigorous.
One intern joined our KWP field crew that goes out to our remote enclosures to do fence maintenance and invasive species control. It can be very wet, very windy and very treacherous, but drop-dead gorgeous.
Two joined our Pelekane restoration crew. They do a whole variety of activities in lots of different locations: seed collection, nursery management, out planting, sediment dams, erosion control, and invasive species control. Mixing that up is a real plus, even though the conditions are not exactly cushy. But as you can see, they manage to mix hard work with play very successfully.
And two of the interns split their time between Waimea Nature Summer Camp, for ages 7-12, and the Pelekane restoration crew. Camp had up to 20 students each week and ran 5 weeks. There were fun and educational field trips to reefs and lava flows, and fun times in ULU LA’AU, the Waimea Nature Park. So not only did those two interns need to know how to work hard, they also needed to be able to play hard.
By the end of their 8 weeks with us, we were all sad to have to say goodbye. But true to form, a few have returned to join us on our Saturday community volunteer days. Now that’s dedication.
Stopping the flow of sediment into Pelekane Bay: that is what all our work is all about. The axiom is: the bay won’t heal until the sediment stops flowing into it. Question: how do we do that? Answer: until our out plantings grow mature enough to assume that job, we have to create temporary abatements. Installing Sediment Stop fabric is our first step.
|From Sediment Stop blog 7.10|
What we start with are deeply eroded gullies that are formed by the un-impeded, overland rush of water. These gouged gullies get progessively longer and deeper with each storm and produce the vast volumes of sediment that flow into Pelekane Bay. By breaking the slope into shorter segments, the sediment stop fabric keeps the rainfall, that flows across the soil surface, from gaining too much speed.
|From Sediment Stop blog 7.10|
Our crew first needs to reshape the vertical sides of these gullies into more softly sloping edges. Gentler slopes allow plants to more easily colonize and further slow the flow of water. Because these areas are remote and the terrain is treacherous, this is all hand work. I am told this goes faster than one would imagine.
|From Sediment Stop blog 7.10|
The fabric itself consists of a 70% straw and 30% coconut-fiber matrix reinforced with 100% biodegradable netting. It lets the collected water flow through while catching and holding the sediment. Our crew un-rolls and then re-rolls the fabric to specified widths, embedding it will PILI, a native grass seed. The hope is that the seed will not only sprout within the rolls, but will be carried downstream with the flow and also seed in the gullies. The grass will then act as a longer-term, living sediment stop that will repropagate itself and become well established.
The spacing of the rolls is determined by the gradient slope: the steeper the surface the closer the rolls are placed. At a 30% slope the rolls are set about 25′ apart and held into place with 18″ wooden stakes. Because all of these materials are biodegradable, in time, they will be absorped into the landscape as a carbon nutrient.
|From Sediment Stop blog 7.10|
This finished installation took our crew of 5 an entire day, from beginning to end. That is actually not long given that it is all done by hand.
We have yet to have enough rainfall to test their efficacy but are looking forward to that moment. Even better is when we will see thousands of tiny, sprouting PILI seedlings meandering down the gullies.
As I said, when Melora and I greeted Senator Dwight Takamine and Representative Mark Nakashima, it took 3 women six months to get them there (hearty laughs all around). These are busy men with full and constantly changing schedules. So finally, on Sunday at 9am, there they were, ready to walk the shoreline of Pelekane Bay. Little did they know that we had anything but Pelekane Bay on the tour! I give them full credit for being flexible, curious, supportive, engaged, and very good natured about everything! They truly wanted to see what we had been doing with our three crews, over the past couple years.
The most important thing we wanted them to know was that, without continued State funding, our work cannot happen. Even though our funding has been impacted, with less money each year, for the previous three years, the State’s support is critical. And as Dwight said more than once: until you can walk the land and experience it, there is no way to truly understand the beauty, the uniquness, and the challenges of this watershed.
That is exactly why it was so important to get them there. History runs deep through this corridor and all of it is etched into the landscape.
Dwight also stressed the importance of collaboration as the key to bringing the community on board with our efforts. Because our work intersects with private land owners, state and federal agencies, hunters, foresters, and volunteers, to name a few, he reminded us how crucial clear and proactive communication is. He should know better than most about collaboration: he took his father’s seat in the House of Representatives in 1984 and is now a first term Senator. Mark Nakashima won Dwight’s vacant seat and is in his first term as representative of District 1, on the Big Island.
At the end of the 3 hours, they had seen the huge contrast between the lower elevation, parched stream corridors, where our restoration crew is focusing their outplantings, to the lush, protected, wet forest of the Natural Area Reserve (NAR), near the summit of Kohala Mountain.
We hope they left with a fuller appreciation of not only the majesty of the mountain but a more intimate connection to our vision of restoring a functioning, balanced watershed.
We have a very new threat to our native Naio (Myoporum sandwicense): the thrip species, Klambothrips myopori. And, I am sorry to say, the thrips are spreading, literally, like wild fire. The thrips’ conquer- and- succumb pace has been quite amazing and alarming. We have now identified the presence of these thrips in Waimea and within the Pelekane Bay Watershed. And, as I work at the Waimea Nature Park and walk around my neighborhood, I find the thrips are also in full presence there.
Myoporum thrips were first discovered in Orange County, California, in 2005, and have rapidly spread to many different parts of California. Their method of arrival to California and subsequently to Hawai‘i is unknown, but the current belief is that thrips originated in Australia.
The University of California Integrated Pest Management Program describes thrips this way:
“Most adult thrips are slender, minute (less than 1/20 inch long), and have long fringes on the margins of both pairs of their long, narrow wings. Immatures (called larvae or nymphs) are similarly shaped with a long, narrow abdomen but lack wings. Most thrips range in color from translucent white or yellowish to dark brown or blackish, depending on the species and life stage. In many species, thrips feed within buds and furled leaves or in other enclosed parts of the plant. Their damage is often observed before the thrips are seen.”
Myoporum plants that have experienced damage by thrips have curled or swollen leaves or galls caused by the thrips’ feeding off of the plants. This may also be caused by adult thrips laying their eggs in the leaves. The plant itself will become twisted and, depending on the number of thrips feeding off of the shrub, may die.
Research is currently underway. We are in touch with the Division of Forestry and Wildlife, but the pace of research is being out-stripped by the pace of damage. The Naio’s future is uncertain.
Trials in California have been underway with several chemical controls (Conserve, Merit, Avid) but no clear leader has yet emerged. One study concluded that control of the Klambothrips myopori and reduction in damaged Myoporum will most likely involve the use of insecticides and that other beneficial insects, resistant cultivars, and other IPM methods may be available in the future.
In the meantime, all we can do is observe and keep in touch with current information.
We like to get our Restoration crew out into the worlds of other dryland restoration projects. There is so much we all have to learn. Watersheds and ecosystems are complex, multi-layered, and diverse. Only by seeing how others are doing it and by asking questions and brain-storming, do we contine to solve the puzzles that terra-firma continues to throw at us.
Our most recent trip joined Rob Stephens, restoration coordinator, and his crew on Pu‘u Mali, at 6,000′ elevation on the slopes of Mauna Kea. It was a 90 minute drive from Waimea, through multiple gates and wide open pasture land. Parker Ranch was branding some cattle in a paddock, but other than that, it was just us, the occassional pueo (native owl), pasture fowl, and lots of cows. Really lovely.
This part of the Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project is an effort to re-establish native habitat for the Palila, an endangered native Hawaiian bird, whose main source of food is from the Mamane tree, which is now threatened. Rob’s crew had already previously prepped rows in the pasture grasses and had marked off the four corners of the quadrant to be planted. The rows were to be mixed species using ‘A‘ali‘i, Mamane and occassionally Koa. By the end of the day, we had planted almost 300 seedlings and shared a lot of information along the way.
As kokua ( in- kind help) Rob’s crew will be joining us in June to do a similar day of out planting and sharing, but in much different conditions!! Rob’s site has rich, moist, loamy soil. We do not. We look forward to their help.
Two resourceful Scout Troop leaders were not content to let their cubs sit idle on mandated “Furlough Fridays” when our public schools were forced to close their doors due to budget constraints. These Scout leaders have been taking their cubs all over this beautiful island of ours in search of good deeds to do. These good deeds include service learning projects such as cleaning lo‘i (terraces of taro) in Waipi‘o Valley, making thatching for Ahu ‘ena Heiau by the King Kamehameha Hotel, and clearing out anchialine ponds along the Kona coast. If furloughs continue into the next school year, these two leaders will continue to expose their cubs to great, educational experiences while making valuable contributions along the way.
The cubs most recent “free” Friday was spent with me at the Koai‘a Sanctuary on Kohala Mountain. Some had never even been on the Kohala Mountain road, much less in this forest. On this particular day, the entire area was shrouded with thick, blowing mist, making it both cool and cozy while lending a mystical quality to the stream bed where we were working.
The focus of the morning was to clear the three of the four invasive species that are the most pervasive: ginger, prickly pear cactus, and lantana. I gave them appropriate tools of destruction, and if you want to imagine 12 totally enthusiastic boys and girls hurling themselves into the job, complete with shouts of glee at pulling ginger tubers up by the roots, you will have the right picture. Two hours later, they were wet, muddy, and not wanting to stop.
And here are the pictures to prove it:
After that, two visiting Kohala Center interns from Cornell University led a tutorial on GPS and GIS. They had GPS units and explained how they work and how we use them. The cubs had hands-on experience. But, I think, the cubs secretly just wanted to get back to killing invasive species.
As Shari Jumalon, the den leader for the Bears, said: “The kids of Troop 12 had so much fun in Kohala. It was beautiful! They wanted me to extend a BIG mahalo for hosting us for the day. The boys and the two girls enjoyed attacking the ginger and cactus and we would love to return to do more service learning.”
They really were a joy. I’ve encouraged them to return next year if the furloughs continue.