Water conservationists of the year honored

PO’IPU — Damage from heavy rains and floods and the resulting repairs were the basis for the selection of this year’s Outstanding Water Conservationists by the Kaua‘i Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Rodney and Karol Haraguchi, Hanalei Valley taro farmers, were selected as the East Kaua‘i SWCD honorees for their outstanding work in conservation and protection of the Hanalei Valley water resource, said Ted Inouye, representing the East Kaua‘i SWCD.

The presentation was made before the 49th annual Hawai‘i Water Works Association convention, Thursday, at the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort & Spa.

“The last major flood in 2009 widened the break in the Hanalei River bank to 8.5 feet and the entire Hanalei Valley was without water, resulting in Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. declaring the area as an emergency disaster (area),” Inouye said.

Rodney Haraguchi was able to work with Mark Marshall and Ed Teixeira of the county and state Civil Defense, respectively, to pull a plan together for repair of the damages.

The taro farmers rented heavy equipment, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided equipment and personnel, and the County of Kaua‘i came forward with equipment and personnel to construct a temporary repair, which restored water for the farmers.

“During these several weeks without water, the taro farmers lost the optimum yield they could have had, and the damage also affected the new plantings and maintenance, creating more difficult and at times preventing harvesting,” Inouye said.

But Rodney Haraguchi took the leadership role and contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service for help to make permanent repairs and improvements to the valley’s irrigation system.

This led to the East Kaua‘i SWCD being contact to identify, develop and access measures to protect the water supply for taro cultivation in Hanalei Valley, Inouye said.

Similarly, following a flood from heavy winter rains in December 2008, the Kekaha Agriculture Association, represented by Landis Ignacio, repaired damaged intakes and washed-out siphons.

The Kekaha Agriculture Association — comprised of Wines of Kaua‘i, Sunrise Capital, BASF, Pioneer Hi-Bred and Syngenta Seeds — currently operates and manages the former infrastructure utilized by the Kekaha Sugar Company which discontinued its operations in 2000.

“There were many challenges to stabilize and improve the deteriorated water system inherited by the Kekaha Agriculture Association,” said Peter Towsend of the West Kaua‘i SWCD in announcing Kekaha Agriculture Association as its selection for the Water Conservationist of the Year.

In addition to repairing and restoring the water system, Ignacio also oversaw the restoration and maintenance of drainage systems in and around Kekaha town to help prevent flooding, Towsend said.

“They have a plan in place to significantly upgrade its water-distribution system. This plan includes replacing open ditches to move water with closed pipelines, helping to prevent water loss to evaporation and seepage,” Towsend said.

The new system will also utilize central filtration, eliminate unneeded reservoirs and allow for improved flood prevention.

The Kekaha Agriculture Association operates entirely on renewable hydroelectric power after rebuilding two hydros, and has plans for expanding its energy production.

These facets piqued the interest of a delegation from the Big Island who extended an invitation to Ignacio to address the HWWA convention when it moves to the Big Island in 2011.

Water conservationists of the year honored

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