Welcoming Our New Team Members

Our team is expanding thanks to county funding and our non-profit partnerships. We are excited to welcome our most recent hires through the following programs:

Aloha Aina Workforce Crew: Jason Makaneole, Dane DeMello, Kaniho Giminiz, Hunter Rice-Hudson
Llewellen Woodward, Kupu Member
Christopher Kaiakapu, Native Plant Nursery Manager
Tiele Doudt, Huliauapa’a AmeriCorps Member
Haylin Chock, Huliauapa’a AmeriCorps Member

Burning Mangrove at Alakoko

If you see something burning down at the fishpond – it’s us! We are starting to do controlled burning of select mangrove piles in select areas. Burning mangrove is a standard method used in mangrove removal and is covered by Department of Health Clean Air Branch Approval (letter).  We are in contact with the Kauai Fire Department before starting to burn each day. Burn hours are between 9am and 6pm.

Below are some commonly asked questions regarding this burning activity. If you have questions or concerns that are not addressed, please email info@malamahuleia.org or call (808) 652-5210:

Q. Why are you burning mangrove waste?

Once mangrove is cut, it has to be removed from the wetland/pond area for regulatory reasons. Malama Hule`ia has determined that burning is the most appropriate means of disposal for small amounts of mangrove biomass at specific isolated locations. This decision was reached after extensive research that included reviewing options such as land-filling, burial in wet sediment at the site (creating peatlands), composting, mulching and delivery to a biomass-to-energy facility.

Q. What factors did you consider?

Please see our research paper titled “Fate of carbon and greenhouse impacts in a mangrove-infested wetland”. We are using a combination of mulch/composting and burning. We selected the most appropriate action for specific areas based on a number of factors, including access, greenhouse gas emissions, impacts on important historical sites, time and other environmental factors. 

Q. What are the characteristics of burn sites?

These isolated piles of wood are distant from suitable removal sites, inaccessible to heavy equipment or raise the risk of fuel, hydraulic oil and lubricating oil spills. Furthermore, the piles are near a historically significant archaeological feature (the 600-year-old Alakoko Fishpond wall) and extensive traffic could negatively impact the feature. Burning appears to present the least likelihood of damage to the site.

Q. What will be done with the ash? 

Ash from the burned mangrove will be collected and mixed into mulch and compost at a location away from the pond and pond wall.

Q. What other methods are being used?

We are grinding and mulching most of the woody material after cutting mangrove and removing it from the pond/wetland area. Burning is being deployed only in specific small areas where hauling the material is not feasible.

Q. Do you have permits for burning?

We have a permit from the State Department of Health Clean Air Branch, which allows us to burn between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. See approval letter here.

Q. Is the Fire Department aware of this activity and what about smoke?

The Fire Department will be notified each day burning is scheduled to take place. Burning will only be done on days when smoke is unlikely to affect neighbors. The burning will be conducted to promote high heat and to minimize smoke production.

First Anniversary at Alakoko

Nearly 40 community members planted out dozens of native coastal plants Saturday , October 26, 2019, at the Alakoko Fishpond.

The imu crew

The workday, the one-year anniversary of Malama Hule`iaʻs first workday at the pond, culminated with the opening of an imu and an impressive luau spread. The imu had been started along the fishpond at 9 p.m. Friday and was opened at 11:30 am. Saturday.

Steamed breadfruit and pans of pork other goodies came out beautifully cooked.

Before the feast, teams of volunteers prepared the native weaving sedge makaloa and other potted coastal plants for out-planting onto the shores of the pond, where mangrove had been removed. Little by little, the exposed mudflats are turning green.

Preparing plants

Aʻeo ohana

The work was accompanied by the calls of nearly a dozen native Hawaiian stilts, aʻeo, and a trio of Hawaiian ducks, koloa, and other wildlife that has repopulated the waterʻs edge now that mangrove has been removed.

Travel Pono

Mālama Hulē‘ia hosted the Hawaii Tourism Authority and their film crew for the interview of cultural practitioner and MH Board Director Sabra Kauka on “travel pono.” The interview was part of a campaign aimed at teaching tourist what to or not to do while visiting the Hawaiian islands. Using the Alakoko Fishpond as an culturally important place, Sabra chanted and spoke of the practice of asking permission before entering such a place. Sabra explained that it’s tradition to ask permission to enter a space rather than just barging in. “It really is wise to do so,” she said. “Because you’re not assuming. You’re asking to be invited in.”

The video of Sabra’s interview can be seen at https://youtu.be/hzuQRtWinsQ and you can read all about it in Travel + Leisure: https://apple.news/AE1CYhVd4QFe5gbMbIn0U0A

Kaua`i High Athletes Remove Mangrove from Alakoko

On August 24, 2019, nearly 200 Kaua‘i High School athletes spent their Saturday morning getting muddy and helping restore the 600-year-old Alakoko Fishpond.

They pulled out invasive mangrove seedlings, planted native species and cleared new planting areas.  While caring for the fishpond, they also learned something about the history of the region.

Kaua‘i High Athletes at Alakoko Fishpond

They are the latest of hundreds more Kaua‘i residents and visitors, who come each month for community work days aimed at helping bring back to life the ancient pond and the adjacent Hulē‘ia River.

The work is a program of the non-profit Mālama Hulē‘a, whose goal is to remove some 70 acres of invasive mangrove from two miles of the Hulē‘ia River system on Kaua‘i.

The Alakoko Fishpond, also known as the Menehune Fishpond, was built in the late 1300s or early 1400s. It is one of Kaua‘iʻs oldest surviving archaeological features. A rock-faced wall separates the pond from the river.


Until last year, both the wall and much of the pond were densely overgrown with invasive red mangrove trees. Mangrove was introduced to the islands for erosion control nearly a century ago, but has now displaced hundreds of acres of native coastal lands. There are now community efforts to clear mangrove from coastal areas on several Hawaiian islands.


In 2013, Mālama Hulē‘ia launched with a mission to remove the mangrove from the Hulē‘ia. Its first effort was to clear more than two acres of dense mangrove along Puali Stream, fronting Niumalu Park. The group moved last year to the fishpond. So far, half the pond margins have been cleared, and the cleared areas are being replanted in native coastal and wetland species.


The Kaua‘i High School athletes, members of the football, volleyball, bowling and other teams, along with some of their teachers and parents, planted the four native species that seem to be growing best along the pond shores. They are ‘ae‘ae, makaloa, ahu‘awa and ‘akulikuli.


Community Workdays are under the guidance of Mālama Hulē‘ia executive director Sara Bowen and operations manager Peleke Flores, along with several of the groupʻs board members and veteran volunteers. The workdays are held on the 4th Saturday of every month, 8 am – 12 noon. Lunch is provided. Check with info@malamahuleia.org for other activities and dates.

Science Teachers, Purple Maiʻa, Oceanographer and Mālama Hulēʻia Meet at Alakoko

A team of science teachers and technical experts met with Mālama Hulēʻia at Alakoko Fishpond Thursday (June 20, 2019) to look into sensor technology for better monitoring and managing the pond.

The session at the pond, and later in a laboratory, was arranged through Purple Maiʻa, a nonprofit organization bringing technology and place-based learning together to teachers.

The team of science and computer teachers from several Kauaʻi schools, alongside Purple Maiʻa’s team, worked with University of Hawaii oceanography professor Brian Glazer and Peleke Flores and Sara Bowen from Mālama Hulēʻia.

They are working on developing technology for studying water movement, temperature, salinity and other features of the nearly 600-year-old pond along the Hulē`ia river.

More on Glazer’s work at his home page: https://www.soest.hawaii.edu/oceanography/glazer/Brian_T._Glazer/Home.html

More on Purple Maiʻa at its website: https://purplemaia.org/

Nā Pua Noʻeau: March Kupulau Camp

This is Malia Chun’s report of the second of a series of Kupulau camps being held at Alakoko Fishpond.

On March 9-10th, Nā Pau Noʻeau students conducted their third Kupulau Camp in partnership with Mālama Hulēʻia, The Surfrider Foundation and Kaiola Canoe Club. During this 2-day, residential camp, students from the moku of Puna participated in a variety of STEM activities. These activities include; water quality testing, recording the topography of the perimeter of Alakoko Fishpond, conducting cultural protocol at the base of Hāʻupu, zip lining with Outfitterʻs Kauaʻi and helping to prepare an imu for the amazing crew of volunteers and board members of Mālama Hulēʻia. In the next few months students will continue to collected valuable data that will help in future revitalization efforts of Alakoko and Hulēʻia and will continue to gain a deeper knowledge and respect for the history of the ahupuaʻa of Haʻikū. Mahalo nui to all of our partners for providing cultural enrichment opportunities for our ʻōpio of Kauaʻi.

The Machine Crew

From the beginning, Mālama Hulē‘ia has been supported by hundreds of volunteers from the Kauai community. This help from volunteers is the basis of our success and what allows us to aim ambitiously at eliminating invasive mangrove from the whole Hulē‘ia watershed, as we have done at the Pū‘ali wetland and are now working on at the Alakoko fishpond. Perhaps one reason for such community support is the high value that the people of Kaua‘i place on natural beauty and cultural significance.

Continuing help has come mainly from our local community. We have had occasional help from traveling volunteers and those who are part of state-wide organizations. Recently, a crew of volunteer heavy equipment operators (“the machine crew”) worked full time for about two months, starting on January 14. They were not Kaua‘i residents but individuals who live in the Pacific Northwest. Nevertheless, they came to understand and embrace the mission of Mālama Hulē‘ia, as well as the culture and values of the Kaua`i community. And so they have committed their skills and time to the Alakoko project.

These guys helped with the January Community Workday in the morning and operated their machines in the afternoon.

Bryan Valett, long time friend of Sara Bowen, Mālama Hulē‘ia  Executive Director, learned of the Alakoko project while visiting and offered to volunteer his time during the mainland winter season when his work is usually down. He also hand picked a crew of highly skilled equipment operators. The crew, in addition to Bryan, consisted of Chuck Hayes, Howard Fox, Skylar Smith, Georges Parks and Brock Struthers. They all volunteered as individuals, independently of their work/company. Their Washington State-based firm, Strider Construction, permitted the equipment operators to help Mālama Hulē‘ia during the mainland off-season months. Bryan Valett also has relationships with a couple of environmental consulting firms that have also sent staff to assist.

What the machine crew achieved probably seemed pretty routine to them. But from the perspective of Mālama Hulē‘ia ’s past, their work was nothing less than heroic. In the course of their volunteering on Kauai, they have cleared more than 6.5 acres of mangrove from around the Alakoko fishpond. If we had to work those acres as we have at Pū‘ali, it would likely take us over 6 years to accomplish as much.


Of course the big excavators made a huge difference. But the dedicated and continuous volunteer time given has also been a big contributor to this quick success.

So we owe this team of heroes a huge mahalo! And as much as we appreciate their volunteering, they told us they were appreciative of the experience they had being immersed in the cultural significance of the work they did for the fishpond and community here. It was fitting that their stay ended with a Hawaiian style celebration staged for them by Mālama Hulē‘ia on the grounds of Alakoko.

Some of the 6.5 acres cleared by the machine crew