Ecosystems - Biology - Animals

Maui Residents Fight To Save Kihei’s Last Wetlands

County officials continue to approve new building permits close to shore despite rising seas.

As the cars whiz by on Kihei’s main drag, Trinette Furtado stops the volunteers in front of a drainage ditch along the sidewalk.

Wearing a shirt that reads “Ola i ka wai,” or water is life, the cultural adviser for Maui’s Save the Wetlands Hui points to each native plant sprouting from the damp soil along the bank, then shifts her focus to the murky water pooling in the culvert. Flashes of orange dart under the surface — a school of golden tilapia.

Many Maui residents aren’t aware of the fish swimming next to South Kihei Road. (Marina Riker/Civil Beat/2023)

Not long ago, when Furtado and her colleague were taking school children on a field trip here, they ran into county crews digging up a suspected broken water line. In reality, fresh water had bubbled through the ground near the sidewalk, creating the new habitat.

Furtado had thought there wouldn’t be a utility line, because this section of South Kihei Road isn’t just a road. It’s actually a bridge, cutting through one of the last remaining wetlands in Kihei.

“You may not have noticed it,” Furtado said. “But we’re killing it.”

The bridge forming South Kihei Road that cuts […]

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