It looks like a two-year effort aimed at restoring the Hakioawa watershed on Kaho’olawe is nearly done. The project has involved 600 volunteers working 12,000 hours to put 20,000 native plants into the ground, according to a Feb. 26 newsletter from the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC). The funding for the project came from the state Department of Health Clean Water Branch and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“The Clean Water Act funding and the overwhelming number of volunteers that have donated their time and energy to this project have been instrumental to furthering our mission to protect, preserve and restore the Reserve’s historical, archaeological and environmental resources,” said KIRC Executive Director Michael Naho’opi’i in the newsletter. “With their support, the Commission has broken new ground in developing innovative solutions to overcome physical and logistical challenges that no other State agency or organization in Hawai’i has faced in an endeavor that is for the future of Hawai’i and its people.”
The erosion at Hakioawa–which KIRC estimates at 1.9 million tons of soil per year–is due to the island’s history as both a massive ranch for goats and, during World War II and the Cold War, a U.S. Navy bombing range. KIRC used native plants to help restore the island’s ecosystem in its plan to stop the erosion–one step in a very large project aimed at returning some measure of self-sufficiency to the island.
“Collaboration with the Hawaii State DOH for the last ten years has been very valuable to the restoration efforts on Kaho`olawe,” KIRC Project Manager and Natural Resources Specialist Lyman Abbott adds in the Feb. 26 KIRC newsletter. “They have generously provided grant funds for native plants and soil erosion control, enabling acquisition of vital baseline data on soil erosion rates, stream discharge, suspended sediment, and ocean turbidity in two priority watersheds, and sediment deposition off of Hakioawa Bay.”
The timing of the KIRC announcement comes at a time when the island’s future is a big subject in the state Legislature. In fact, two of three bills providing financial support for the Kaho’olawe Commission and island restoration efforts are still alive.
SB 897 started off just appropriating $6 million to the island, but the latest amended version also legalizes “limited commercial uses to generate revenue” on the island. That’s a big deal, considering that any commercial use of Kaho’olawe has long been illegal. The other bill that’s still alive–HB 438–just appropriates $6 million to the KIRC. In fact, HB 438 has a hearing today at 11am in the House Finance Committee (SB 867, which provides a portion of the state conveyance tax to the KIRC, has been stalled in various committees for the last month).
For more information on KIRC’s soil erosion project, check out Kahoolawe.hawaii.gov.
Photo of Hakioawa in 2003: Forest & Kim Starr/Wikimedia Commons