Updated: October 5, 2022
The Maui County Council passed a bill today that will restore and protect wetlands.
Under the new law, wetland areas will be identified and mapped if they contain at least two indicators of hydrology (evidence of groundwater, hydric soils and hydric vegetation).
This legislation intends to prohibit the loss of additional wetlands to development and ensure the perpetuation of these areas that help maintain a healthy watershed.
“Wetlands are environmentally sensitive ecosystems which create habitat for important species and environmental resilience to the effects of climate change,” Councilmember Kelly Takaya King said in a news release. “They serve essential functions, including slowing, capturing and filtering the flow of runoff and sediment in storm events.”
South Maui experiences frequent major flooding that causes significant erosion, power outages, transportation delays and other issues.
“Wetlands are essential for environmental health, biodiversity, protection of the marine environment and coral reefs, flood mitigation and protection of property and fresh water resources,” said King, chair of the Climate Action, Resilience and Environment Committee.
“Wetlands play an important role in Hawaiian culture, and we rely on them for erosion control and protection of endangered species as well as freshwater and ocean water quality.”
Brandi Corpuz, who testified in favor of the bill, said: “In December 2021 [the Kona Low storm], we were able to see what happens when you try to wipe out a wetlands system from existence. We need this wetlands bill to help stop several projects proposed on our wetlands and to protect what little bit of wetland resources we have left in Maui County.”
The bill incorporated feedback from wetlands experts, the Department of Planning, Department of Public Works, the Office of Council Services researchers and the Department of the Corporation Counsel.
After vetting the bill in the Climate Action, Resilience and Environment Committee committee, the full council passed it unanimously.