Thursday, May 8, 2014

2014 Ka'u Mountain Water Systems Hike Review

Photos by Jesse Tunison
The Ka‘u Mountain Water Systems Hike drew explorers to learn about the rainforest, the history of agriculture and the future of conserving natural resources and developing alternative energy.

During the Ka‘u Coffee Festival hike along the old sugar plantation water system that has been restored by Olson Trust above Ka‘u Coffee Mill, Wood Valley resident Jeff Silva talked about the pristine waters of Ka‘u and noted that the potable water system in Wood Valley is the only health department approved non-chlorinated public drinking water system in the state. He noted that the water is clean because the forest is preserved.
Johnny Navarro, of Pahala, showed the hikers the infrastructure in the forest where he grew up hunting along the old plantation flumes, a system that he helped repair in recent years.

Shalan Crysdale, of The Nature Conservancy, stood by Clark Tunnel and talked about the importance of keeping out invasive species to help the forest capture water as a fog drip. He explained that the native koa and ‘ohi‘a trees are excellent at converting fog into drops of water that accumulate on the leaves and fall as rain. Without the tall canopy of the native trees, the forest would be much drier, soil erosion and storm runoff would travel down-slope and impact land all the way to the coast and into the near-shore waters.

Olson Trust land manager John Cross talked about the plantation workers building the horizontal ash bed tunnels. He explained how rain falls through lava flows and into the ash beds and said the tunnels release the captive water form Mauna Loa. He also explained the Olson Trust plan to build a hydroelectric plant to help run Ka‘u Coffee Mill, other agricultural production and electrify homes. He noted after the hike that native birds sang all day long. “The apapane, oma'o, amaki'i were all around us.”

Among those on the hike were Rep. Richard Creagan, Stephanie Donohue, of county Department of Research & Development and Debbie Ward, of the Sierra Club.

According to Cross, the water system hike is available only on a limited, by-appointment basis. Call Ka'u Coffee Mill at 928-0550.