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9 Most Endangered Historic Sites in Hawaii

This annual list, compiled by the Historic Hawaii Foundation, in cooperation with the State Historic Preservation Division, selects some of Hawaii’s most endangered historic places.


(page 2 of 6)

Photo: Rae Huo

The Auwai of Nuuanu Valley

(Nuuanu, Oahu)

• What is it?

Centuries ago, Nuuanu Valley was one of Oahu’s primary bread baskets, filled with taro, breadfruit and other staples of the Hawaiian diet. In order to irrigate their crops, Hawaiians built an elaborate system of ditches, called auwai, that diverted water from Nuuanu Stream, through the loi and then returned it to the stream.

• What threatens it?

As Nuuanu Valley transitioned from agricultural to residential use, the land under the auwai was split up into smaller parcels, complicating oversight of the system. The Board of Water Supply once maintained the auwai, but today the task falls to the individual property owners in the neighborhood.

Attention to the auwai is spotty; out of 14 original auwai, there are now about eight that are either flowing or could be repaired. “New people move in and don’t understand what they’ve got in their backyards. They fill it in to have something else there,” says Shannon Wilson of the Nuuanu Valley Auwai Study Group, a neighborhood volunteer group dedicated to restoring the auwai. “It’s in everyone’s deed that they have to take care of their section of the waterway, but people don’t always read the fine print.”

• What can be done?

At this point, it’s a matter of public education, making sure property owners with auwai segments know the best way to take care of them. The Nuuanu Valley Auwai Study Group is doing its best to spread the word. They’ll even handle the dirty work of repairing and maintaining an auwai section, if a property owner is unable. For more information, call Wilson at 595-2914.


Kalauhaehae Fishpond

(Niu Valley, Oahu)

Photo: Rae Huo

• 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, aholehole, 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?

Kalauhaehae was last used as a working fishpond in the mid-’90s. It became a casualty of the state’s Kalananianaole 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 Hawaii, 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.”


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Honolulu Magazine May 2020
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