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5839/5841 Kalanianaole Highway, Honolulu, HI 96821
The New York firm of York & Sawyer
What is it?
This fishpond in Niu Valley sits on what was once King Kamehameha’s kalo patch. Thanks to the freshwater artestian spring that feeds it, it was once one of Oahu’s most thriving and productive fishponds, housing ‘awa, ahole-hole, mullet and other favorites. Local residents may also know it as Lucas Pond, after the family that inherited the land from Kamehameha.
What threatens it?
Kalauha‘eha‘e was last used as a working fishpond in the mid-’90s. It became a casualty of the state’s Kalananiana‘ole Highway widening project, when roadwork disrupted the pond’s supply of fresh water. Since then, the state Department of Transportation, which bought the land containing the pond as part of the widening project, has kept the pond unused and off-limits to the public. As director Brennon Morioka points out, “The DOT is not a residential landowner. We’re highway owners.” As such, the department has been trying to dispose of the property, initially by planning a public auction.
What can be done?
Chris Cramer of the nonprofit Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center has been promoting the idea of instead transferring the fishpond to the University of Hawai‘i, specifically the Center for Hawaiian Studies, which could restore and use the site as an educational resource for its students.
The DOT has so far been receptive to the idea, as long as it can receive fair market value for the lot (a federal requirement), says Morioka.
In the event that UH does take over the property, it’s still going to require a lot of additional work. “The fishpond itself is structurally fine, but its freshwater source has to be restored,” says Cramer. “To get the place completely functional and looking good again, would cost about $1 million.”