Photos: Courtesy of Kicka Witte
Article Written By: Jenny Quill, HONOLULU Magazine
What is it?
Located adjacent to Hulē‘ia National Wildlife Refuge on Kaua‘i, Alekoko Pond, also known as Menehune Fishpond, is thought to have been built approximately 580 years ago. Legend has it that the Menehune built the fishpond overnight, meticulously assembling the 900-yard lava-rock wall that bisects a bend in Hulē‘ia Stream. The wall, which is about 5 feet high and 2 feet wide in some places, was designed to allow larval fish in while keeping adult fish from escaping, providing food for the local community, and making the pond one of the best remaining examples of ancient Hawaiian aquaculture.
What threatens it?
Alekoko, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, has fallen victim to both nature and neglect. Red mangrove trees, an invasive species, have set down branching roots along the wall, pushing rocks into the pond. Sediment from the adjacent stream is also an issue. “Little by little, every winter, with the floods, the Alekoko is filling up with soil and no one is removing it,” says Department of Land and Natural Resources aquatic biologist Donald Heacock, who is also the co-founder of the Nāwiliwili Bay Watershed Council and the owner of the property next door to Alekoko Pond. If Alekoko is not properly maintained, says Heacock, it will disappear in 30 to 40 years as a result of eutrophication, a natural process that occurs when aging lakes or ponds gradually build up concentrations of plant nutrients, which, in increased amounts, speed up plant growth and kill off the pond’s animal life.
What can be done?
The Okada family of Honolulu’s Okada Trucking Co. owns the 102-acre parcel on which Alekoko Pond is located. The family attempted to sell the property for $12 million in 2005, but had no takers. The property is not currently for sale, and the Okadas have not publicly indicated what they intend to do with the estate.
Several community groups, including Heacock’s Nāwiliwili Bay Watershed Council, are interested in preserving Alekoko. “Nāwiliwili [Bay Watershed Council] has drafted a letter to the owner to look into leasing the pond in order to restore it,” he says.
Alekoko is also on Kaua‘i Public Land Trust’s radar. “We hope to begin looking at it seriously next year,” says executive director Jennifer Luck, who would like the trust to acquire the property, but feels, given the current economic climate, a conservation partnership with the Okadas is more likely. “As far as what’s best for the property,” says Luck, “it would be ideal to get outright ownership. But we’ll be reaching out to the landowners to see if they’re willing to sell or entertain the idea of a conservation project. [The Okadas] would receive a lot of tax benefits, and it would make it easier on the community and the Land Trust.”