DNLR to update bridge, forest plan

LIHUE — The state has said its plan to harvest non-native trees in the Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve and the ongoing construction of the bridge over the Keahua Stream at the entrance to the reserve are not connected.

But the community still has questions.

On Saturday, the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife will provide information on the two projects in connection with the Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve Management Plan.

The meeting hosted by the Wailua-Kapaa Neighborhood Association is set for 2 p.m. at the Kapaa library. The focus is the DLNR update to the Lihue-Koloa Forest Reserve Management Plan being considered by the department, which includes both the harvesting and the bridge-building topics.

“They invited DLNR as a guest at this meeting to provide further information about the forest reserve management plan, an update on the progress of the bridge project and a possible commercial logging plan for the forest reserve,” said DLNR spokeswoman Deborah Ward. “We welcome anyone interested in these topics to come to the meeting.”

A draft environmental assessment is being prepared on the potential update of the management plan and the department is accepting public comment. Deadline for input from interested agencies, organizations and individuals is March 30.

The environmental assessment looks at options to managing the forest reserve, including removal of invasive albizia and restoration of native forest and the creation of more productive wood products and culturally important products, Ward said.

Management objectives include maintenance of the Keahua Arboretum, watershed protection in the 12,500-acre forest reserve and recreation — especially hiking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing and four-wheel driving, as well as commercial ecotourism.

DLNR is also considering the addition of a shooting range at Hanahanapuni Crater and will be asking for community feedback.

“Considering that one-third of the island’s land mass is used for public hunting, a firing range to accommodate bow and arrow, rifle and handguns might be welcomed,” said Rayne Regush, president of Wailua-Kapaa Neighborhood Association.

According to a 2010 management plan, there are 360-acres of timber plantations in the Wailua area reserve, made up of three species of non-native eucalyptus and paperbark trees.

The trees were planted in the 1930s and again in the 1960s when the Keahua Arboretum started as a demonstration project for exotic timber species. Also under consideration is the removal of invasive albizia trees.

Bits of the plan were announced at an October public meeting discussing the Keahua bridge construction, at which DOFAW’s Kauai branch manager Sheri Mann was the guest speaker.

Meanwhile, construction continues on the $2.7 million, 20-ton bridge over Keahua Stream on Kuamoo Road, in spite of a petition with more than 400 signatures opposing the project. Verbal complaints have also been made to DLNR.

The single-span, steel truss, 115-foot-long vehicle bridge with an adjacent pedestrian path project is expected to be finished in May. Construction is moving along smoothly, according to Mann. The bridge’s structure is now up. The cement on-ramps are underway, as is the new parking lot.

While the original plan was to continue building bridges spanning the three crossings the road makes through Keahua Stream, Mann said there are no plans to construct more bridges over the other fords or further repair the road.

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