WHAT is the Waipio Valley Stream Restoration study?
The Waipio Valley Stream Restoration Study is the first-ever study of completely restoring a Hawaiian stream to natural flow conditions. It will study the effect of restoring the stream on stream flow, water quality, habitats and biota. The study will be conducted by scientists from Bishop Museum and other institutions, with student scientists from two middle schools on the Island of Hawaii collaborating and contributing to data collection and analysis.
Lalakea Stream is a natural stream that starts high in the mountains above Waipio Valley and flows for miles, eventually into the valley and to the ocean. Over 80 years ago, this stream, like many others in Hawaii, was diverted to be used for irrigation, or watering, of sugar cane plantations. The concrete barrier, or "diversion", had been built at 2000 ft. elevation, high above the valley. With the reduction of water, there were no longer two waterfalls at Hiilawe, but only one. Not only was there less water flowing, but it flowed slower and was warmer which affected the plants and animals that live in the stream. Now that sugar cane is no longer commercially grown in that area, it was decided to remove the "diversion" and restore the stream to a natural and free-flowing river. The stream restoration, an event of historic importance, took place in June 29, 2004.