Aquatic Ecosystems of Kealia Floodplain and Maalaea Bay, Maui: Evaluation for Perpetuation and Public Use

Maciolek, J.
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Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology (formerly Hawai'i Marine Laboratory)
Maui Island comprises 11% of the area of the State of Hawaii but contains only 5% of the State's population according to the 1970 census. Topographic and climatic diversity give Maui natural beauty and tourist appeal. Economic growth based on tourism has accelerated in the past few years to the point where many prime areas are developed and others are under acquisition or planning. One such area is the Kealia Floodplain (Fig. 1) on the shores of Maalaea Bay, the leeward side of the isthmus separating mountainous rises of East and West Maui. It is an open space, central to 3 principal residential areas: Kihei-Makena, Kahului-Wailuku , and Lahaina-Kaanapali. The impending considerations for development on this floodplain were suggested in a recent administrative plan (County of Maui, 1970) that includes Kealia: " ... The Kihei area which abounds in natural amenities; the mild climate, attractive sand beaches, unspoiled natural vistas, a warm and gracious way of life •••• these fragile assets could be destroyed by the on-rush of insensitive and unrestricted development that is sure to come. It would be tragic if this happens •••• " Shortly after that plan was published, use interests converged on Kealia. In spring 1970, the active water-related interests included: harbor development (U. S. Army, Corps of Engineers), commercial aquaculture (Fishfarms Hawaii), shrimp-laboratory (Maui Office of Economic Opportunity) and water bird refuge (U. S. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife). Obvious conflicts among these interests, and the irreversible modification suggested by harbor dredging, led to the initiation (April 1970) of a personal study of the aquatic ecosystems which is the basis for this report. Preliminary study showed that the Kealia-Maalaea area had considerable natural value and public usel potential. This immediately contrasted with active development interests, all but one being special use. Portions of an ecosystem (Kealia Floodplain) were being contested without planners, developers, or permit-granting bodies having significant information of the area's ecology or how proposed development would influence its ecosystems. The Kealia-Maalaea area contains two interrelated primary aquatic ecosystems, Kealia Pond and the adjacent inshore waters of Maalaea Bay. A third system, hinterland drainages, also must be considered because its runoff waters strongly influence the two primary systems. This report attempts a comprehensive description to indicate possible developmental disturbances and to suggest ways to protect and utilize the ecosystems for greatest public benefit while maintaining high natural quality.
Maciolek J. 1971. Aquatic ecosystems of Kealia Floodplain and Maalaea Bay, Maui: evaluation for perpetuation and public use. Honolulu (HI): Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawai‘i. Report No.: 27.
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