The island of Kaho`olawe has particular cultural and religious significance for native Hawaiians. Once known as Kanaloa, the island was a center for native Hawaiian navigation. In the mid-20th century, the island was used as a bombing range by the U.S. Navy, and that practice, along with the foraging by feral goats, led to a near-complete decimation of vegetation. The loss of ground cover led to greatly increased erosion and run-off of sediment-laden water onto the island's adjacent coral reefs. Litigation in 1990 ended the U.S. Navy's use of the island as a bombing range, and in 1994 the island was transferred to the Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC), http://kahoolawe.hawaii.gov/. As a result of the litigation, the U.S. Navy began a 10-year clean-up effort that was the foundation for the present restoration effort by KIRC (Slay, 2009).
The restoration effort is centered on revegetating the island, reducing erosion, and limiting run-off onto adjacent reefs. Restoration efforts to mitigate sediment runoff to streams and gulches by restoring native vegetation and minimizing erosion have focused on two watersheds, Kaulana and Hakioawa, on the northeast and northwest sides of the island, respectively. Stream flow and sediment gages were installed by the U.S. Geological Survey Pacific Islands Water Science Center in each of the watersheds, and a weather station was established upland of the watersheds. For this study, turbidity monitors were installed on the insular shelf off the two watersheds to monitor the overall quality of reef waters and their changes in response to rain and stream flow discharge events.