Ma'alaea saved

Have you noticed how fleeting causes have become?

No doubt, social networking is an effective way to get a message out to like-minded people. And you can't beat free when it comes to the price of modern communication. But does it sometimes feel as if activism has been boiled down to re-tweeting and throwing your name and postal code on a petition? What happened to the days where giving a damn meant getting right in the trenches, when being an activist meant more than just "liking" the cause du jour?

Surfrider Foundation recently celebrated a victory, but it was far from a few Instagram posts. This battle has waged for two decades, going back to a day where people used to go to these things called libraries. But after the decades of hard work on Maui, the right hander known as Freight Trains at Ma'alaea (which some call the fastest wave in the world) has been saved from a marina and proposed breakwater construction. The US Army Corps of Engineers, who assists government bodies with planning, designing, and constructing any water resource project, is now convinced that the marina would be a mistake.

"Surfrider has been working on it for a hell of a long time," said Stuart Coleman, the Surfrider Foundation's Hawaiian Chapter Coordinator. "It's definitely one of our longest running campaigns."

Adjacent to the legendary fickle right is a small boat harbor. But commercial interests going back to the late 80s have been pushing to expand the marina, which would require the controversial breakwater.

"Within the US Army Corps of Engineers planning process, every study considers the project in relation to four things. (These are) national economic development -- the direct net economic benefits of the project to the nation, environmental quality -- the non-monetary positive and negative effects on significant natural and cultural resources, regional economic development -- the direct net economic benefits of the project to the region, and the other social effects -- relevant concerns for the project not captured under the other categories," explains Joseph Bonfiglio, Chief of Public Affairs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Honolulu District.

This hasn't been a constant battle, but over the years, there have been different attempts to get the project permitted.

It was first mentioned in the Surfrider's newsletter Making Waves back in 1990. There was even a video made called "Save Ma'alaea." How long has this been going on? The video was on VHS.

"It would have required dynamiting acres of coral reef and near shore water and building on top of reef. Not only would it ruin the super-fast right, but it was a habitat for the threatened green turtle and countless other sea life," added Coleman, who is also author of the book, Eddie Would Go.

Surfrider's Hawaiian Chapters worked on this issue with the Protect Ma'alaea Coalition, local activists and environmentalists. According to Coleman, they contended that the pro-development side had faulty information and hence Surfrider paid for a new study in the late 2000s that showed the long and short-term damage of this construction.

"Impacts to recreation, including surfing, are considered in environmental quality, regional economic development and other social effects. Impacts to coral reef habitat are considered in environmental quality and regional and national economic development in terms of both the economic benefits of preserving the habitat and the economic costs of compensatory mitigation actions to address unavoidable impacts to the habitat. The purpose and need of each project and the site specific concerns and issues will drive to what degree any issue, including surfing and coral reef habitat, will be addressed and influence outcomes and decisions."

The proposals were scaled back over the years and eventually drawn from the table thanks to so much public disfavor. It's been a long, hard battle, but Ma'alaea is saved. That deserves a re-tweet.