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Soil and Water Conservation District



Pelekane Watershed Management Project(1992-2005)

The Pelekane Bay Watershed is located in South Kohala, on the northwest coast of Hawaii Island. The watershed is located on the slopes of Kohala Mountain, extending from the Kohala Forest Reserve at the top of the mountain down to Pelekane Bay, south of Kawaihae Harbor. It is approximately 12,225 acres in size and falls from 5,300 feet to sea-level in a distance of approximately 8 miles. The terrain is rugged, bisected by deep, normally dry gulches. Makahuna Gulch is the watershed boundary to the northwest and Highway 19 (Kawaihae Road) to the southeast.

The Pelekane Bay watershed was identified in Hawaii’s Unified Watershed Assessment as a Category I watershed: that is, one of the State’s watersheds in most urgent need of restoration.  Pelekane Bay is also on Department of Health’s (DOH) 2004 Section 303(d) List of Impaired Waters.  The reasons for these designations is that soil erosion from the watershed has impaired the water quality of Pelekane Bay.

The water quality of Pelekane Bay is impaired almost exclusively by sediment and the resulting turbidity. The current condition of the watershed is much improved as a result of on-the-ground management measures and increased rainfall to promote grass growth over the past few years. The primary purpose of the Pelekane Bay Watershed Management Project is to reduce soil erosion in the watershed by improving land management practices and restoring vegetative ground cover.
The goals of the project are:

  • to increase groundcover density and quality in the watershed;
  • to minimize the number of fires within and adjacent to the watershed;
  • to restore damaged groundcover and areas of bare soil in the watershed, as practicable;
  • to reduce sediment deposits into Pelekane Bay from upland watershed areas;
  • to measure the success and effectiveness of watershed restoration and protection activities.

This project has been a partnership among the District, land owner Queen Emma Land Co., lessee Parker Ranch, NRCS, UH Cooperative Extension Service, University of Hawaii at Hilo, County Department of Water Supply, County Fire Department, Puukohola National Historic Park, and Hawaii Preparatory Academy, with funding from both DOH (Section 319(h)) and NRCS. 

Under this project, the District developed a comprehensive watershed management plan and funded the installation of best management practices to reduce polluted runoff potential in the watershed.