Yee’s Wetland

Yee’s Wetland, known locally as Yee’s Orchard is not generally recognized as a wetland. But is actually located at the heart of a system of wetlands and has a river flowing through it. Yee’s is a great example for understanding the context of wetlands. Wetlands will appear where the subsurface hydrology allows them to. Wetlands are not defined by property lines but by the underlying geology. You can begin to see the larger picture when you look at the neighboring watershed features and nearby wetlands.

Yee’s Wetland looking east (Photo: Suzie Dorn)

On the uphill side is the heavily engineered culvert-works under Liloa Drive, that connect it to the Pi’ikea Park/stormwater retention basin. These large drainage features are engineered to conduct vast amounts of stormwater onto the Yee’s site. When it rains there is a virtual river flowing through this site. The vast central Kihei wetland zone transects the property laterally, and this wetland is also fed on both sides from other wetlands, as well as stormwater by the many stormwater diversions flowing into it from neighboring developments.

Yee’s Wetland in context

What is striking about this wetland is that despite all of the water and inlets flowing water into this property, there are no engineered outlets. Even the major roadway at South Kihei Road has no gutters, curbs, or drains here.

Yee’s orchard wetland at South Kihei Road

So why has the management of stormwater in this critical area, and on this busy road been left unaddressed? Maybe because this wetland does such a good job managing the stormwater. When it rains the local residents know that water pools on the roadway here. It is very common to see pooling that the local peacocks seem to enjoy.  This property is a functional wetland. This site is currently being used for agriculture as an orchard. On the property, there are several mitigation wetlands, all of which connect together after heavy rains. What is not visible are the underground connections that create the nexus of pathways for the groundwater to travel along.

Yee’s Wetlands looking south from Kauhaa Street

Essential Function: The important point is that this wetland performs an extremely critical service as the area’s primary drainageway and streambed. Therefore, this wetland and riparian area needs to be protected and preserved so that it can continue to perform its essential functions.

Non-conflicting uses: The current use as an orchard does not interfere with its ability to perform mechanical drainage functions, however, it is less than ideal as a habitat or as a biological repository for native flora and fauna.

Habitat and Range: However, that is not to say that native animals do not dwell here, because trees, in this case, mature mango trees, may be suitable roosting places for the endemic Hoary Bats that are known to frequent this area. This orchard may also be a useful foraging ground for the endemic Pueo owl. Also, the perennial wetland pools may also host waterbirds at various times, as these pools are essentially contiguous with the perennial Pi’ikea Wetland ponds.

Ephemeral Wetland between Piikea park and Yee’s Orchard: The Yee’s wetland extends from the inlet side mauka at Pi’ikea park, and flows under the Liloa Drive, where it flows towards the ocean.
Ephemeral Wetland between Pi’ikea park and Yee’s Orchard.