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Kauai salt makers working to save cultural practice

LIHUE, Hawaii >> Families that harvest salt from salt beds in Kauai fear current conditions in the unincorporated community of Hanapepe and climate change are threatening their important cultural practice.

Ku‘ulei Santos, vice president of the salt-makers’ board, told the Garden Island that the salt production that her family has done for generations is unique, but recently the area around the salt beds has been developed without the consideration of the salt makers.

“They cater to everyone else without making the salt makers the most important part of that area,” she said. “They made it about the helicopter companies, they made it about the state, but they took away from paakai (salt).”

Another challenge is people driving on the beach adjacent to the salt-making area, causing a runoff, which makes it more difficult for makers to find the necessary items to create the salt beds, such as black clay and salted water for the wells, said U’i Corr-Yorkman and her husband, Josh Yorkman, who also sit on the salt-makers’ board.

A sand dune that used to protect the beds when there’s a large surge or tide has also deteriorated.

Salt makers have been asking county and state officials to help protect the salt beds and their practice for years.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources Board of Land and Natural Resources approved the right-of-entry permit, which allows the county to access the area in order to help protect the salt beds, said Shelly Kunishige, Hawaii’s Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

The county plans to enable a pedestrian-only access on Kaalani Road adjacent to the ponds, she said.

The conditions of bathrooms and the cesspool are another source of concern for the salt makers. Corr-Yorkman is also hoping that facilities like the sewer, sewer lines and bathroom facilities will also get an upgrade.

The administration has requested the council approve additional funding to install a pipeline that will take the effluent away from the leach fields to the county sewer system, said Sarah Blane, a County of Kauai spokeswoman.

“We anticipate that request to be heard at a council hearing sometime in August,” she said.

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