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Fresh Water: From the Mountains To Your Drinking Glass

(page 7 of 8)

LEGISLATORS: SEN. DELA CRUZ & REP. CHANG

Working Now for Tomorrow

State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D, Kunia Village-Mililani Mauka-Wahiawa-Whitmore-Haleiwa-Mokuleia-Waialua-Sunset Beach), chair of the Senate Committee on Water, Land and Housing; and Rep. Jerry Chang (D, South Hilo-Waiakea Kai-Kaumana-Keaukaha), chair of the House Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee, talk about legislation, laws and community support to help protect Hawaii’s forest watersheds.

 

Photo: Rae Huo

Representative Chang

Our watersheds need help now. In the 2012 legislative session, Gov. Neil Abercrombie will introduce a plan aimed at doubling the area of protected watershed over the next 10 years. Legislation in the administration’s package addresses the governor’s “A New Day in Hawaii” plan on the stewardship of the natural resources, specifically on replenishing our source of water. It will task the State Department of Land and Natural Resources to increase mauka watershed protection by managing invasive species, addressing climate change, among other things. 

In the past, legislation involving appropriating funds to DLNR targeted specific districts for improvements and repair, including watersheds. Unfortunately, because of our state’s financial situation, many projects now depend on private contributions and federal matching funds.

Watershed protection is a critical problem statewide. Currently, partnerships with and buy-in from large private land owners are essential for across-land-boundaries success in addressing threats. We now also need to depend on dedicated volunteers, such as the Kohala Watershed Partnership on my home island of Hawaii, which supports watershed restoration by controlling invasive species, building trails and working for the betterment of our environment. We must support our schools to educate students on the cultural and economic benefits of watershed protection. It is their future we are helping to preserve now.

Photo: Rae Huo

Senator Dela Cruz

Our watersheds are under attack. Threats from invasive species will not resolve themselves in our island state. What’s needed to save our native forests and sustain water production for future generations are stable funding sources, especially now in our struggling economy. Act 55, which I sponsored last year, will allow DLNR to generate its own revenue and avoid the danger of budget reductions as part of the state’s general fund. 

Act 55 creates the Public Land Development Corporation as a development arm for DLNR. It will allow low impact and culturally sensitive revenue-generating activities on state lands to showcase our natural environment to help protect it, similar to how Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Audubon Society generate funding. I do not believe in denying public access to our state lands. DLNR can focus on implementing regulatory functions, including watershed protection, while the Public Land Development Corporation focuses on generating revenue. With stable funding, we can revitalize our natural resource management and create jobs for local people, our children.

Community support and educational efforts are important to encourage lifestyle changes to support conservation and to make our children aware of the need to protect our natural resources in perpetuity. Volunteers make a big difference, but we cannot expect them to solve our long term problem of watershed sustainability, just as we cannot depend on our general fund for perpetual funding for our natural resources. As a state, we must make a solid commitment to ensure that our forest watersheds will be around for now and the future.

Photo: Rae Huo

Water in Hawaiian Culture

Fresh water in ancient Hawaiian life was so fundamental that its main sources – springs, streams, clouds and rain – were attributed to Kane and Lono, two of the major Hawaiian gods, and matched closely to the food crops that each represented.

Kane and his brother Kanaloa, the traditional creators of fresh water springs in Hawaii, are associated with kalo (taro) and awa (kava), crops of the springs, streams and wet valleys and sacred manifestations of Kane. Lono was the god of the winter rains, presiding over the seasonal cultivation of the rain-dependent crops, uala (sweet potato) and ipu (gourd), in the drier, arable leeward lands only during the Hawaiian “winter” or wet season.

Water’s sanctity and role in purification and healing today represent a continuity of the deeply spiritual reverence that ancient Hawaiians placed in water’s ability to evoke life, cleanse and heal.

Watershed was Wao Akua, the realm of the gods, in contrast to Wao Kanaka, the realm of people. Thus, upland forested regions grew on the earth not due to the efforts of human beings, but to a much higher authority. Trees are the kinolau (physical manifestations) of Ku, the Hawaiian god of war, leadership and governance, as seen in the erect strength of trees and their steady persistence through the seasons.

Excerpted by permission from “Spiritual Aspects of Water” presentation by Sam ‘Ohu Gon III, senior scientist and cultural adviser, The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii

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