Queen Emma Land Company (QELC) is pleased to announce it has received a $257,125 grant from the Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) under its Clean Water Act Section 319(h) Nonpoint Source Implementation Program for on-the-ground conservation work in the Pelekane Watershed on the slopes of Kohala Mountain above Puʻukoholā Heiau and Kawaihae Harbor on Hawai‘i Island. This project will help in restoring damaged groundcover and areas of bare soil within and adjacent to the watershed.
The project will take place across approximately 6,500 acres owned by QELC. The project will focus on lands below the 1,200 ft. elevation.
“QELC is grateful for DOH’s support of our ongoing efforts to restore groundcover and mitigate erosion-related risk in Pelekane Watershed,” said Eric Martinson, Queen Emma Land Company President. “Through collaboration with our project partners, we hope to improve the health of these legacy lands and support the resilience of near shore coastal environments for the communities that depend on them, for generations to come.”
Erosion has long been a concern to land and ocean managers in the Pelekane Watershed, where wildfires and grazing on steep, dry slopes with highly erodible soils have led to sedimentation, degraded water quality, and mortality of coral reef resources—in this case impacting one of the longest contiguous coral reefs in the State of Hawai‘i. In the last decade, ranchers have made significant progress in managing the impacts of grazing on the health of the watershed. Additionally, QELC and adjacent landowners are actively working to address the large feral goat population that continues to cause significant, unchecked damage to the landscape.
Wildfires present a constant danger to the Pelekane Watershed and coastal water quality. QELC, through the DOH grant, will target actions to mitigate the impacts of wildfires in this critical watershed.
Over a five-year period, the project will:
- Restrict all ungulates (feral and managed) from the most critical, highly-erodible and highly-eroded lands, allowing the land to recover. This action alone will prevent several tons of sediment from discharging into Pelekane Bay every year.
- Maintain 18 miles of perimeter fences to exclude feral goats from the watershed.
- Minimize and prevent the spread of wildfires within the watershed’s dry lowlands.
- Create a network of fuelbreaks in lower Pelekane by leveraging existing unimproved roads to provide firefighting access, widen firebreak surfaces, and slow fire spread.
- Improve firefighting access and water availability to the greater area to keep wildfires small and minimize spread to the most erodible and sensitive areas.
The project addresses several critical concerns put forth by the 2005 Pelekane Bay Watershed Management Plan and focuses on two management goals: restoring groundcover in the watershed and reducing sedimentation in Pelekane Bay. These objectives can be addressed in tandem, as erosion from bare slopes (whether from feral goats or wildfire) contributes thousands of tons of sediment annually via Pelekane’s gulches and dry stream beds. By allowing vegetation to reestablish in critical and susceptible erosion-prone areas, soil moisture and groundwater infiltration can be restored and retained in arid regions. This in turn will reduce overland flows and flooding, creating a more resilient watershed and coral reef that compound the benefits of retaining soil on the landscape.
Questions or comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
 This project has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) under assistance agreements C9-96978720-0 and C9-96978721-0 to the Hawai‘i State Department of Health, Clean Water Branch. The contents of this document do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the EPA, nor does the EPA endorse tradenames or recommend the use of commercial products mentioned in this document.