Ominous Concerns for Olowalu Maui Reef’s Future

Maui’s Olowalu Reef is a treasure for all and faces existential threats that cannot go unnoticed. The 939-acre Maui reef stretches from Olowalu to Papalaua on West Maui. It hosts diverse coral and the largest manta ray population in the United States. The reef is vital to West Maui’s community, economy, and existence. As Hawaii volcanoes do with hurricanes, Olowalu Reef shields the Maui coastline, protecting it from dangerous wave energy, providing safety to the community, and supporting abundant recreational activities.

It isn’t just the Lahaina fire debris that has threatened Olowalu Reef.

A 2015 coral bleaching event caused the loss of as much as 45% of the coral. In addition, normal sediment runoff from the island poses an ongoing threat. As fish have declined, there’s been an increase in algae, which smothers the reef.

Toxic waste from the Lahaina fire is the source of great concern.

A temporary solution hopes to successfully manage the debris from the fire in the short term. The location of the toxic dump is coastal Olowalu. It’s located halfway between Lahaina and Maalaea.

Where is a permanent dump site for the Lahaina fire debris?

Maui County says that a decision on a permanent disposal location is forthcoming. In the meantime, the temporary site will house fire debris within a unique liner designed to protect the debris from entering the natural environment.

At risk is among the most sensitive coral reefs in the U.S.

The concerns revolve around contaminants found in the debris, including arsenic, dioxins, and lead, among other things. Would this, in fact, leak and damage the reef nearby?

Nature Conservancy advises caution.

Environmental groups are concerned about the potential damage to the Olowalu Reef. That is home to a large manta ray population and the source of coral larvae for other neighboring reefs. Last month, protests and a petition arose against the temporary dumpsite proposal.

Removal of Lahaina debris will take nearly one year.

The operation of moving the debris could involve up to 130 semi-trucks and take nearly 300 days.

Maui Council just approved Olowalu temporary toxic waste dump.

Last week, the Maui County Council approved the Olowalu site as a temporary storage facility for 400,000 tons of fire debris and toxic waste. The decision was made despite community concerns and testimony primarily centered on the issues of contamination of the Olowalu Reef and the ocean water. Only two council members voted against the proposal for those same reasons.

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8 thoughts on “Ominous Concerns for Olowalu Maui Reef’s Future”

  1. My question is: When I come to stay on the West Side. I will want to travel to see friends/relatives and have to go via bypass. What route will these trucks be taking? Do they have any side road to get to their dumping site, or will we be sharing the road for next 1-2 years?

  2. All I have to say is : requote: ” Toxic waste from the Lahaina fire is the source of great concern.” It saddens and sickens me.

  3. Why does Maui continue to shoot itself in the foot? I also read they haven’t put a limit on new hotels…yet they’ll blame the tourists for coming….not positive this is true but if it is it shows how shortsided the politicians are.

  4. Very upsetting and disappointing that the government officials could not have found a better option for this waste. I was even more surprised the Council allowed this to happen. We need to protect this reef!

    I don’t understand why we couldn’t have loaded up one or more large containerships full of the waste and brought it back to the mainland for disposal. I know this was discussed in some circles. Given that the Olowalu site is “temporary” and they are going to have to move it again, the containership certainly would have been a more cost-effective approach.

  5. With all the open space towards the center of the Island which some day housing will be built on. Why would they make the decision to move the debri where it could and will damage the environment.
    Mile Marker 14 is known world wide for the reef. I travel to Maui every 2 years just to enjoy that reef. Every time as I turn around and head back to shore looking at the mountains I keep saying. It’s not going to be beautiful for long. I hope this area is never developed. Right now I see the first signs already as the road leading there is littered with abandoned rusted cars. Now they want to use it as a dump. I hope that Governor Green reads this.

  6. Thank you so much for bringing light to the situation. There has been a huge amount of community pushback, but the council still continues to move this very dangerous option through.
    One of the reason given this is moving so quickly in this direction is that we will lose FEMA money after a certain point. Surely FEMA has the ability to extend a deadline in circumstances like these.

    This important issue is not getting any attention by national news. I would strongly urge, and encourage Beat of Hawaii to forward this information to as many national new sites as they can access. This situation requires leaders, capable of generational, thinking.
    Thank you again so much for bringing this issue to light.

    1. You are so kind to suggest….”This situation requires leaders, capable of generational, thinking.”.

      Unfortunately, The Maui “leaders have not shown any capability of generational thinking thus far”, in obtaining intellectual advice from anyone outside their state/county. Feds have so much to clean up in this sad old country that by the time they get to Maui, the damage will have been done. Just like the years and years of over building on this island. Politics these days are all about greed and power, so our country, lands, waters, & its people are deteriorating as we sit today. very very sad.

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