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Group details plans for restoration of Moku‘ula

By Staff | Mar 19, 2015

LAHAINA – The restoration and revival of the Island of Moku’ula and Mokuhinia Pond is a multi-decade, multi-pronged and multi-million dollar endeavor, with the Friends of Moku’ula leading the charge.

Located at the south end of Front Street across from Kamehameha Iki Park on 14 acres of now-filled wetlands, its significance is paramount to the ancient Hawaiian world.

It is classified as a category 1A Site under the National and State Register of Historic Preservation.

The recently revamped Friends of Moku’ula website best describes the historic West Side treasure: “The freshwater pond known as Mokuhinia contained a one-acre sandbar island called Moku’ula, which was home to the high chiefs of Pi’ilani since the 16th century and a royal residence for the Kamehameha line in the 19th century.

“Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) ruled Hawai’i from Moku’ula between 1830 and 1845 when Lahaina served as the Kingdom’s capitol.”

According to the author of “Moku’ula, Maui’s Sacred Island,” anthropologist and ethnohistorian Paul Klieger, “This is probably one of the most sacred and most cultural sites in the Hawaiian Islands. Fortunately, there are national preservation laws that require certain very specific procedures to be done before any invasive work or restoration can be done.”

And the price tag is high.

In a recent interview with Klieger and FOM leaders Kimo Falconer and Blossom Feiteira, the Lahaina News learned what’s next for the historic site.

Feiteira is the nonprofit group’s executive director.

“In order for us to do everything, uncover the island, restore it, relocate the Salvation Army, relocate the (sewage) booster station and restore the pond, it’s going to run us about $60 million,” Feiteira said.

And not all of the work has been paid for.

The County of Maui has paid for current operations underway, including securing the site perimeter and conducting an archeological inventory survey.

“The archeological inventory survey activities,” she advised, “that is part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ requirements.”

The corps’ participation is the restoration of Mokuhinia.

“The survey is for the pond,” Feiteira continued, and a requirement of the State of Hawaii Historic Preservation Division (SHPD).

“One of the main reasons why SHPD is requiring that is because they want clarified evidence of the perimeter of the island and the 30-foot buffer that is being put in place.

“They’ll be digging several trenches in the parking lot, at the Salvation Army and the back parking lot and on the field,” the executive director noted.

The installation of the perimeter fencing will commence in mid-April for both security and safety reasons.

“There are open trenches, and so the last thing we need is people wandering into the field,” she said.

The fencing should be completed by the end of May, with the survey prepared for submittal and approval to SHPD by the fall.

What’s next? Feiteira responded point blank, “fundraising.”

“Our plan is that each phase of fundraising that we do has to accomplish a specific goal,” Feiteira added.

With governmental resources limited, she said, “a majority of this money is going to have to come from the community.”

An integral element of restoration is the relocation of the Salvation Army (six to eight million dollars) and the sewage booster station (ten to 18 million dollars).

Feiteira explained that “restoration activities include excavation of the island and a 30-foot buffer, which because of the sensitive nature of the area, will require hand excavation from the start. Excavation costs include significant payroll, security of the area for the duration, consulting, permitting, supplies and materials totaling about $25 million.”

The restoration of the pond by the Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) is no small feat.

“We’re talking about a fish pond with water in it, fish and birds,” she said.

“According to the ACOE rules,” Feiteira advised, “they can only work on wildlife sanctuaries. The cap that they have for habitat restoration is $5 million. The cost for the restoration of the entire pond is going to run about $18 million, so the county as a sponsoring agency has to come up with the $13 million.”

Federal law mandates that a partnering agency must be another government entity, “so it is either the county or the state,” she said.

“Once excavation is completed,” she said, “then we move to restoration of the area. We’ll need to replant the island, re-stock the pond and reconstruct the mausoleum and then enclose the whole area. We hope to be able to do the work either in advance or in tandem with ACOE. “

“The restoration costs are attributed to materials, design and labor,” Feiteira continued. “We also need to include an education and training component to the costs. Because excavation comes with its own special requirements, labor on the site will need to have training on how to dig, gather, collect, catalog.

“So, yeah, it’s a huge task and an expensive one,” she affirmed.

Feiteira strategized her fundraising goals for 2015: “to raise the first $20 million, so we’ll be able to relocate the Salvation Army and work with the county to match funds to pay for the relocation of the booster station and begin the process of excavation.”

Falconer is the president of the FOM board of directors. He is positive about the future of Moku’ula.

“We’re not giving up,” he said. “We got partners coming in. We got the Corps of Engineers supposedly coming in; we’ve got the lineal descendants working together with us now.”

“As much as we are here to try and restore this island, we don’t see it as our singular job. We’re not the only people that want to do it. Other people want to do it. We’re more here to bring awareness to it. It’s not just ten people on a board; it’s a community thing,” Falconer explained.

“We just want the site to come back,” he confirmed.