State plans to auction ancient fishponds - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State plans to auction ancient fishponds

Chris Cramer Chris Cramer
Brennon Morioka Brennon Morioka

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email 

NIU VALLEY (HawaiiNewsNow) - Looking at it today it's hard to believe Maunalua Bay was once lined with freshwater fishponds.

"Gushing water, cold water would bubble out of the spring and it would go into the ocean. With that cold water would come the mullet, aholehole - all these fish," said Chris Cramer, president of Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center.

Ancient Hawaiians first built the rock walls with wooden gates to catch fish. Other fishermen updated and maintained them. Before construction claimed the ponds, Maunalua Bay was a prosperous fishery.

"We didn't even know what these fishponds used to look like until we talked with the old folks who used to work these fishponds," Cramer said.

There are only two of them left. One is Kalauhaihai in Niu.

A two-story house was built over the fishpond. A section of the living room had a glass floor so people could peer into the freshwater pond and the see the schools of fish that lived there.

That view has changed dramatically.

"It's sad just to see how it is now," Cramer said.

In the 1990s, road widening of Kalanianaole Highway strangled the water flow that fed Kalauhaihai.

"When we had to put in some utility lines underground it cut off the artesian spring," state Transportation Director Brennon Morioka said.

The state acquired the property.

The house fell into disrepair and the pond turned to a puddle of stagnant water.

The state also holds title to the home and the land on the ocean side of Kalauhaihai.

And farther down the coast, the state owns a share of the Kanewai fishpond in Kuliouou. The state purchased the properties using money from the federal highway fund.

It has to get rid of them.

"We are required by federal regulations to receive fair market value," Morioka said. "We can either do a land transfer with other governmental agencies or state law requires us to auction the properties off."

Morioka said efforts to keep the ponds in government hands failed. He said through public auction the right steward may come forward.

"Whatever community groups that are interested out there to maintain the ponds, they will be free to participate in the auction," he said.

Morioka calls the ponds a liability. He said they're taking money away from roads.

Cramer sees it another way.

"We don't want to have our fishponds up for auction. That would be a worst-case scenario. And the best case is that these fishponds stay in the public trust forever," he said.

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