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First view from the ground of the fishpond after a path was cleared through the mangrove.

As we move into the new year and close out 2020, I reflect on some of our achievements. We have come so far since gaining access to Alakoko - removing 26-acres of mangrove in under two years! It feels like an amazing accomplishment and we couldn't have done it without the commitment and hard work of so many. I remember the day when we caught the first sight of the fishpond from standing on the ground. The ~300 foot path was cleared through the mangrove by our awesome machine operation volunteer crew from Washington state, lead by my friend Bryan Valett. It was then that I really felt the confidence of being able to successfully finish the mangrove removal project. That and seeing the weekly progress made by our volunteer “Menehune Crew” who cut and cleared all along the fishpond wall, amazing, those guys! To round it out, having BCI and their amphibious excavator on site to attack the areas only that machine could was a blessing. Mahalo again to Matson for generously donating the shipping of that machine!

BCI's Amphibious Excavator

Volunteer Menehune Crew

As the covid pandemic settled upon us, I was glad that Malama Huleia had the pivotal opportunity to focus attention on building an online learning platform.  As a parent it felt good to be able to play a role in connecting with parents, students and the community through a virtual environment, filling a niche in an uncertain time.  What began as an idea for some online videos and more regular social media content, has now turned into what I believe will be a premium, top notch, education platform loaded with standards based resources for teachers - thanks to the Keala Pono team at Kamehameha Schools. I am really looking forward to piloting the next units in early 2021. 

Online Education model collaboration with Kamehameha Schools.

Educational Youtube Video introducing visitors to the site

Now that the mangrove around Alakoko are down we are ramping up the native planting around the edges of the pond. It is awesome to know that we have a dedicated staff member overseeing this massive plant expansion effort. Having Christopher Kaiakapu join the Malama Huleia team as the Native Plant Nursery Manager is another great achievement of 2020 for us. Having this resource onsite supports momentum towards expanding restoration and establishing a comprehensive monitoring system.

Native Plant Nursery Manager, Chris Kaiakapu.

Native Plant Nursery on site (pre-covid).

In light of all the challenges that 2020 has brought I am so thankful for the forward momentum in achieving our mission in restoration, education and the continuation of Hawaiian Cultural Practices. 

Looking forward to the time when we can all be together in person again soon - happy new year!

~ Sara Bowen, Executive Director 

Mahalo to all of our community contributors
for a successful year! We couldn't do it without the continued support of you; our volunteers, educators, partner organizations, partner agencies, and local businesses.

Mahalo to all the many hands, good thoughts, and blessings from our community and beyond within the past 2 years. You have helped the loko i'a get to where we are today and to the continued support and people who have yet to come and add to the movement of bringing life and culture back to this over 600 year old loko i'a! Wishing you an Aloha Makahiki Hou Kaua'i and hope to see you soon! Stay safe and keep at it! Within our history we have definetly survived worse. Keep on pushing through, what doesn't kill us will make us stronger! Me Na Akua, Na Aumakua a me Na Kupuna pu me kakou a pau! Alooooohhhaaaaa!

~ Peleke Flores, Field Operations Manager

Field Operations Manager Peleke Flores and Executive Director Sara Bowen, December 2018, just as we began breaking ground at Alakoko.


By Tiele-Lauren Doudt, Nā Kama a Hāʻupu

Hūi e ia nei! ʻAnoʻai ke aloha i kēia wahi māhele nūhou e kuhikuhi i ke au nui a me ke au iki o kēia ʻoihana, ʻo ka hoʻihoʻi ʻana i ka ʻāina momona ma ʻAlekoko nei. 

Here at Mālama Hulēʻia we are constantly working to improve our understanding of the places that we aloha ʻāina through researching and gathering both English and Hawaiian language primary resources. The Hawaiian language proverb from which this series is titled arrives from the ʻōlelo noʻeau, “Ola i ka ʻai uahi ʻole o ke kini o Mānā (ON #2480).” According to the beloved Mary Kawena Pukui, the families of Mānā, Kauaʻi were famed as a region that rarely engaged in making poi from kalo, a process which typically involves a significant amount of labour and generous amounts of smoke. Although some accounts of the same phrase, such as in the moʻolelo of Pele-keahialoa and Waka-keaka-ikawai, “Aloha Mānā i ka ʻai uahi ʻole,” suggest that this ʻōlelo noʻeau pertains to the bounties of ʻōpae that were found in Mānā prior to the developments of the sugar cane industry. The delectable and famous shrimp were, according to the phrase, consumed with minimal preparation. ʻAi uahi ʻole – food without the labors of creating smoke.

This section of our newsletter aims to provide research highlights from our growing collection of literary resources surrounding the Hulēʻia river. The first feature of this series comes from the archaeological report completed by Francis K. W. Ching titled, The Archaeology of Puna, Kauaʻi: Niumalu Ahupuaʻa Loko Kuapa O Alekoko, 1st edition, Volume 73, Hawaiian Archaeological Journal, Lawai: Archaeological Research Center Hawaii, 1973: 28. Although the author does not cite where he obtained the original story from, this resource serves as a great starting point to engaging in specific research topics surrounding the Hulēʻia river. Such topics of possible interest include the kūʻauhau of the siblings ʻAlekoko and Kalālālehua, GIS investigations along Hulēʻia river for the possibility of neighboring fishponds, as well as gathering historical accounts on the presence of menehune in the Puna district of Kauaʻi.



Living in the valley between the Kipu River and Niumalo resided Ale-koko, the brother, and Ka-lala-lehua, the sister, young chiefs of handsome countenance, who agreed together to construct a fishpond each for themselves. The work on these fishponds was done by the menehunes, it was done in one night (during the night of akua, on which there was a full moon). Stones for the walls were gathered from as far away as the sea beach of Makalii.    (The pond of the brother was built on one side of the river, while the pond of the sister was built on one side of the river below Kalaeakapapa Point. The menehune women built the sister’s pond, and the menehune men built the brother’s pond.) As dawn approached the menehunes fled to the mountains. (The sister’s pond was never completed.)    The sister, seeing her fishpond incomplete, was grieved and wept at its unfinished state, while the brother rejoiced at the completion of his. The stones gathered for the sisters pond still remain in the stream to this day.  

Story from ‘Alekoko, Story of the Menehune Fishpond”  More Kauai Tales  by Fredrick B Wickman, Illustrated by Christine Faye



Photo from 1920ʻs era showing bridge/makaha (at star) connecting Alakoko fishpond (upper) to a small embayment (now side channel) and to Hulē‘ia river downstream (far left).

Coastal wetlands adjacent to stream-mouth estuaries and historic fishponds in Hawaii have been severely degraded in recent decades as a result of encroachment of non-native woody vegetation, particularly red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) and Hau bush (Hibiscus tiliaceus). The prolific growth of these species resulted in altered hydrology and degraded water quality. At Huleia River/Alakoko Fishpond, waters that were historically open and circulating freely had become choked out by a thick overgrowth of mangrove and associated sedimentation. 

Through the grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Hawaii Fish Habitat Partnership, Malama Huleia re-established a side channel in order to promote connectivity and fish passage between Alakoko fishpond and Huleia River. The primary objective of this project was the removal of a non-structural barrier composed of sediment and woody debris to facilitate hydrologic connection and passage of migratory fish (primarily mullet, and other species as well).

Google Earth image from 2013 with embayment area in Figure 1 delineated by white line. Star indicates bridge/makaha.

After clearing mangrove from the project area (mangrove removal covered under different project scope and funding), a significant amount (area ~ 1-acre) of organic debris was removed from the side channel that runs between Alakoko fishpond and Huleia River. Additionally, non-organic waste such as scrap metal, rubbish and large metal pipes were removed from the project area. The debris removal was accomplished using a combination of mechanical and hand labor. Woody debris was hauled to an upland stockpile and mulched onsite.

Organic debris from side channel *note orange sediment control boom and sign at chance mouth.

Large metal pipes being removed by excavator.

Sediment removal, hand digging by volunteers.

Today the fish passage open and free of debris. Star indicates bridge/makaha location.

Through the restoration process over the last two years, connectivity has been returned from this down stream channel to the river. With the enhancement of connection the river waterbirds and fish species are returning and the pond is beginning to show signs of functioning as originally intended, taking us one step closer to our goal of restoring this ancient fishpond to its original intended purpose. 


Online Module created in partnership with Kamehameha Schools. 

While covid has limited our opportunity to host in person classes we are excited to expand our educational reach through online learning modules. Our first learning module is LIVE! A great opportunity to learn more about the ecosystem of Alakoko. 

Learning Module 1

Our vision is to create a free-flowing, healthy and productive Huleia ecosystem perpetuating community pride. We do this by advocating, educating and leading community efforts to restore native wetland ecosystems, that result in an environmental stewardship program honoring Hawaiian values. To find out more about ways to support or partner in our work please contact us.

Mālama ia Hulē‘ia, Hulē‘ia ia Mālama

Take care of the Hulē‘ia, and the Hulē‘ia will take care of you

Copyright © 2021 Mālama Hulē‘ia, All rights reserved.

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