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Meeting to detail Mokuhinia Ecosystem Restoration Project

By Staff | Aug 29, 2013

LAHAINA – The County of Maui and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are conducting a feasibility study for the proposed Mokuhinia Ecosystem Restoration Project in Lahaina Town.

The purpose of the project is to restore a portion of Loko o Mokuhinia, the former wetland that surrounded the ancient island of Moku’ula, which is now buried below Malu-ulu-o-lele Park across from Kamehameha Iki Park along Front Street.

All are welcome to attend a public meeting for the project on Thursday, Sept. 5, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Lahaina Civic Center.

Specifically, the project includes restoration of foraging habitat for the endangered Hawaiian stilt, Hawaiian coot and migratory waterfowl and shorebird species.

Components of the proposed action include excavation to intercept the existing groundwater, grading to provide shallow wetland slopes and micro-topographic variation, installation of a groundwater well and pump to supplement groundwater levels, installation of an outlet to an adjacent ditch, planting native wetland vegetation, and installation of a perimeter fence to provide predator control.

Residents’ views on the project were mixed at two community meetings held last year. Some in the Hawaiian community would like to see the island unearthed and pond restored, and some feel the site is sacred and should not be disturbed.

According to the Draft Environmental Assessment for the project published last week in the Office of Environmental Quality Control’s “The Environmental Notice” bulletin, if approved and funded, it’s anticipated that construction of the project would be completed in 2018, following which post-construction performance monitoring would be conducted for up to ten years.

Long-term operations and maintenance activities would be performed by the County of Maui.

The County of Maui, Friends of Moku’ula and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are coordinating efforts to restore the Mokuhinia ecosystem in Lahaina.

Historically, Loko o Mokuhinia was a 17-acre pond – one in a series of coastal wetlands along the shoreline of West Maui.

These wetlands served as habitat for a variety of valued wetland species, including Hawaiian waterbirds, migratory water fowl and shorebird species.

Within the pond was the island of Moku’ula, the residence of high ranking ali’i (chiefs) through the mid-1800s.

The County of Maui and Friends of Moku’ula partnered together and articulated three components: restoration of the aquatic ecosystem features of Loko o Mokuhinia, revitalization/preservation of the historic and archaeological features of Moku’ula, and the establishment of an area reserved for future use by Friends of Moku’ula.

According to the Draft EA, the proposed project would restore scarce wetland habitat for native vegetation and wildlife species in an area where it historically existed as part of a larger network of coastal wetlands.

The findings of the feasibility study have been compiled in a Draft Integrated Feasibility Study and Environmental Assessment.

Input is being sought on the draft document from affected federal, state and local agencies; Native Hawaiian organizations, individuals and practitioners; and other interested private organizations and parties.

A public review period is being held through Sept. 23.

Hard copies of the document are available at the Lahaina, Wailuku and Kahului public libraries, and an electronic copy will be available on OEQC’s Environmental Bulletin (Aug. 23 edition).

For more information or special assistance for the meeting, contact Athline Clark at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at (808) 835-4032.