The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in cooperation with the County of Maui Department of Public Works and Environmental Management, has proposed to construct 2.75 acres of shallow ponds and mudflats near the mouth of Kaunakakai Stream, Moloka`i, Hawai`i to restore habitat for the endangered native Hawaiian Stilt. Kaunakakai Stream is ephemeral upstream from the habitat-restoration site. Where the pond and wetland bottoms are below the water table, the ponds and wetland will be sustained by ground-water discharge during dry-weather conditions. Because ground water is the main source of water for the proposed ponds and wetland, a reduction of ground-water levels and discharge near the mouth of Kaunakakai Stream will have an effect on the availability of habitat.
In response to concerns about the possible effects of ground-water withdrawal on the habitat restoration project near the mouth of Kaunakakai Stream, the U.S. Geological Survey undertook the present investigation to estimate, using an existing numerical ground-water-flow model, the changes in ground-water level and coastal discharge caused by redistributed and additional ground-water withdrawals. Steady-state water-level and coastal-discharge changes, relative to recent base-case conditions, were estimated for each of six withdrawal scenarios. Redistributed and additional ground-water withdrawals in the six scenarios were simulated from selected sites in the area between Kualapu`u and `Ualapu`e. For the scenarios tested, model results indicate that withdrawals from existing and proposed wells cause a water-level decline of about 0.1 ft in the vicinity of the Kaunakakai habitat-restoration site. In addition, model results indicate a reduction of ground-water discharge, ranging from 98,000 to 170,000 gal/d, to the model element containing the habitat-restoration site, although the existing spatial discretization in the model is too coarse to reliably estimate the reduction of ground-water discharge to the stream. Reduction in discharge to the habitat-restoration site is likely less than the total indicated by the model element because the site covers a small fraction (about 5 percent) of the area of a model element.
Ground-water-level declines near the habitat-restoration site will reduce (1) the available wetted habitat area by an amount that is dependent on the bottom slope of the ponds near their edges, (2) the maximum water depth of the ponds by about 0.1 ft, and (3) the average water depth by an amount that is dependent on the bottom shape of the ponds. The salinity of ground-water discharging into the wetland area likely will increase by an unknown amount in response to increased withdrawals upgradient from the site. A numerical model capable of simulating density-dependent flow and transport is needed to evaluate the effects of withdrawal on salinity in the area.