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Olowalu Reef Threatened by Mega-Development
Click to read PWF's Public Testimony opposed to Olowalu Town Development
Read Letters to the Editor submitted by PWF's Conservation Manager Lauren Campbell
For anyone who has ever kayaked, snorkeled, sunbathed, surfed, or indulged in a sweet delicacy at Leoda’s pie shop off the Honoapiilani Highway at Olowalu, LISTEN UP!
Developers are in the final stages of pushing for the creation of “Olowalu Town”, a proposed 1,500-home (plus ohanas) development that is set to impact 636 acres of agricultural land. While proponents of the project cite West Maui housing needs, and maintain that the project will be “environmentally friendly”, numerous organizations and individuals have banded together in opposition.
Water quality, beach access, and traffic issues aside, primary concern is focused on impacts to the near shore Olowalu reef – a 450 acre underwater wonder with over 24 species of coral. For starters, it supports one of the state’s few black tip reef shark nurseries, and is home to a resident population of nearly 30 manta rays.
Yet what is even more spectacular is its coral life: out of all the reef systems on Maui, only three areas contain extensive aggregate coral reef (Spreckelsville, Kihei and Olowalu). Aggregate coral reef, mind you, is not the typical coral colonies you see growing on lava, but is instead thick reef structure. One lobe coral colony on the reef is so large that scientists estimate it to be about 500 years old! The area is also home to several species of rare corals, and has the highest diversity of Porites species and growth forms in the entire island chain. Check out the Maui Time's article featuring Marine Biologist Pauline Fiene for excellent information on the uniqueness of Olowalu's reefs!
The proposed Olowalu Town development threatens to significantly alter the entire area, both underwater and on land. Imagine no more Leoda’s, no more scenic views of Kahalawai, no more access to your favorite wave, no more small-town feel. We live on Maui, and not on the Mainland, for a reason – because we value the simplicity of life on our island. Let’s not turn Olowalu into another beachside, mega-development!
What You Can Do
In mid-December, the Maui County Council voted not to include the makai (ocean) side of Honoapi'ilani Highway as part of the urban designation. The area upslope of the reef, however, remains open to urbanization. Nevertheless, we are pleased with the small victories, and will continue to oppose this unneccessary and ill sited development. Please contact us if you have any questions, and also visit the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council website for more information and ways you can get involved!