Kīlauea Eruption Brings Dramatic Changes to East Rift Zone Landscape
The current eruption of Kīlauea has forever destroyed the Waiopae Tidepools Marine Life Conservation District, according to an update from the State Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Less than 1% of the marine environment in Hawai‘i is fully protected by these districts, so department officials say the loss of Waiopae is extremely significant.
The East Rift Zone Eruption event is keeping two State parks closed and a forest reserve closed, and is adding new acreage to what is now State unencumbered land.
“This continuing eruption is changing the way DLNR and its division’s manage public lands in the lower Puna District,” said Chair Suzanne Case. Newly created land, by law, becomes State unencumbered land and will fall under the jurisdiction of the DLNR Land Division.“There is tremendous alteration of the landscape on a broad scale and daily basis. Most dramatic is the complete lava inundation of Kapoho Bay including the covering of the Waiopae Tidepools MLCD,” said Case.
Both Lava Tree State Monument and MacKenzie State Recreation Area have been closed since shortly after the eruption began.
“The parks are closed and will likely remain so for a very long time,” said State Parks Division Administration Curt Cottrell. “Pele is in control now. She already reclaimed Kalapana State Park back in 1990 and may well decide to perform substantial make overs to Lava Tree and/or MacKenzie,” Cottrell said.
State Park’s Hawai‘i Island Supervisor Dean Takebayashi visited Lava Tree State Monument on Monday. He observed damage to the comfort station and park walkway, likely caused by the earthquake on May 4, 2018. Takebayashi said, “We have to keep these parks closed because they’re close to lava and subject to gas emissions from the eruption. We don’t know yet what other dangers have been created by the earthquake and six-week old eruption?”
About 50% of the 1,514 acre Malama Kī Forest Reserve has also been closed for many weeks. The reserve served as a habitat to sub-populations of native forest birds which have developed unique resistance to avian pox and avian malaria.
“We would hate to lose that genetic pool,” said DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife Hawai‘i island Branch Manager Steve Bergfeld. Due to current and further expected losses of Malama Kī’s habitat, populations of wildlife may no longer persist, rapidly decline, or become further fragmented and/or contract in range.”
Chair Case said, “DLNR and many of its divisions continue to support Hawai‘i County during this unprecedented natural event with resources and personnel on the ground. First and foremost we want to take every step needed to make sure people are safe and stay out of places that, like the landscape, can change in a flash.”