Kihei experienced a huge construction boom in the 70’s and 80’s. Most of the condos and homes we now see were made during that time. The legacy of Maui’s Construction Boom is high density housing and condominiums on the shoreline and especially on Kihei’s flood plain. Unfortunately this area is prone to flooding. Kihei’s stormwater infrastructure has failed to keep pace with the growth in population and construction, and as a result we have a large proportion of the population living in high risk areas. Flooding puts life and property at risk, and causes damage to the natural environment. Severe flooding is a regular occurrence in Kihei, and yet the County council lags behind in providing solutions to the flooding and drainage issues. Many streets are without sidewalks, curbs, or gutters, many areas have no stormwater drainage systems.
Pre-FEMA mistakes should not be repeated:
The construction boom of the 70’s and 80’s was done with little regard to flooding and stormwater management. A lot of bad-planning mistakes were made and poorly-designed developments were constructed before the creation of flood maps, drainage networks, and the FEMA era. However, now that these drainage and flooding problems are well known and better understood, the Kihei floodplain has been designated as a FEMA flood zone. We still have a legacy of poorly located homes and condos in the floodplain. And the stormwater drainage infrastructure needs to be created that can deal with the safety issues and provide a reasonable level of security to people and property. Even today there are too many floods and damaged property as a result of inadequate planning and infrastructure. Therefore it makes no sense to keep developing these lowest-lying areas, with all the known hazards, as it remains a risk to life and property. It is also irresponsible to knowingly create situations that put more people in harm’s way, and expose current residents to greater risk. The current flood-mitigation and drainage infrastructure is not up to the task of adequately protecting the existing residents, let alone serving the needs of adding new “high-density infill projects” to these most severely affected areas.
Natural Detention Basins: All open ground in the area functions as natural retention basins. All open areas including the wetlands and the drier kiwe-scrub lots act as detention basins. These places usually have porous, sandy, or silty soil. In these natural and undeveloped areas, stormwater is able to be absorbed into the ground and is filtered down through the sandy soil and seeps into the volcanic bedrock where it flows into the ocean. The absorption of stormwater runoff through the sandy soil has a filtering effect. The sandy soil acts as a natural filter that cleans the dirty runoff water before it reaches the ocean. Studies have shown that both natural and manmade wetlands serve as detention basins.