Posted 8/1/2022:

Questioning safety of unregulated blasting in Koloa

What’s being done to protect and preserve our past?

If property is purchased in an area where a cave network is known to exist and local residents file documents with SHPD (State Historical Preservation Division of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources) claiming ancestral burial sites of their kupuna, is it pono for the developer to blast without regard to their claims?

There is little question that the Hawaiian members of Save Koloa and Friends of Maha‘ulepu have been vocal in reporting their ancestral ties to property currently being developed by Gary Pinkston and his firm Meridian Pacific on Kiahuna Plantation Drive in Koloa. If developed, there will be 280 luxury condominiums currently offered for sale between $1.2 and $3 million. The units are being built as vacation rentals.

So many more cars on Koloa’s already limited roadways, so many more to evacuate in the event of an emergency with an already restricted access that exists from the South Shore, adding more to our solid-waste landfill as the visitor community tends to create more waste with less recycling because of the limited duration of their visit.

Adding to this dilemma is the developers’ use of underground blasting without having used any 21st-century techniques to survey the property for ancient burial sites or cave structures that may be habitat for the blink wolf cave spider and its companion the blind amphipod. When we contacted the Kaua‘i Department of Public Works to complain about the detonation felt in many surrounding residences, we learned that Kaua‘i County does nothing to regulate the amount of explosives used by a developer or its contractors.

The county’s position is that it is up to the developer to do it right and not cause damage in the process.

Hapa Trail runs adjacent to the Kiahuna Plantation Drive parcel under development. Since the blasting, holes have appeared in Hapa Trail that were not there before. Surrounding residents have described being frightened by the noise and size of the blasts, which they said shook everything in their homes.

What damage is the blasting causing Hapa Trail or other significant sites on the South Shore? We know there is no monitoring of the quantity of explosives used, so what protection is there for our blind wolf cave spider found nowhere else in the world?

How much of our past will be left for the future?

Thanks to the organizers of Koloa Plantation Days for the many informative and festive remembrances of old Koloa. During a walk down Hapa Trail last Saturday, July 23, I listened to archaeologist, Hal Hammett of Cultural Surveys Hawai‘i, who narrated throughout the walk. I personally saw the holes local residents reported had developed since blasting.

Hal described the eight months he and colleagues spent studying the old Koloa Field System, of archaeologic significance as it dated from 1350 to 1850. He described the area as replete with a cave network running under the parcels from Kiahuna to the old Koloa Sugar mill site. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife (Service) has designated 13 of the caves as critical habitat for the endangered blind wolf cave spider and its companion the blind amphipod.

The 13 designated habitat caves are located throughout the South Shore, representing only a small percentage of our total cave network, which has been described as containing a system of underground passages that is recognized as one of the 10 most endangered cave networks in the world (Tongvig and Mylroie, in litt. 1998; Belson 1999). These caves span the underground to the Waita Reservoir.

What will the developer’s blasting do to the integrity of an earthen dam that is over 100 years old and contains over three billion gallons of water? A dam that had its eastern or Maha‘ulepu side spillway closed over with only one remaining spillway directed to Koloa town? If the blast is carried through the cave network, as it appears to be the case, what are our public officials doing to protect us? Videos of the blasts can be seen on the Save Koloa Youtube channel.


Bridget Hammerquist is a resident of Koloa.

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Humpback whales are often seen breaching off the shores of Maha’ulepu during the winter months.


Friends of Maha’ulepu is comprised of a group of concerned citizens (local and beyond) who are contributing their time and talents to protect the natural beauty of this pristine coastal valley.

Maha’ulepu Beach is located on the South Shore of the Island of Kaua’i in the Hawaiian Islands, approximately 3 1/2 miles northeast of the town of Poi’pu.  Poi’pu is one of the major visitor destinations on the island due to it’s beautiful beaches, swimming, snorkeling and surfing, sea turtles, whales, monk seals, trade winds, palm trees, and spectacular sunsets. Learn more about Friends of Maha’ulepu and the work we are doing!

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