LIHUE — Kauai has more than 144,000 acres of land that are part of the island’s system of watersheds.
The lands are part of Hawaii’s more than 2 million acres of watersheds, which just received an infusion of $770,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for protection and preservation.
The money is going into the Hawaii Watershed Initiative, which supports projects that move forward the state’s goal of protecting 30 percent, or 253,000 acres of Hawaii’s highest priority watershed by the year 2030.
That goal is part of Gov. David Ige’s Sustainable Hawaii Initiative, which outlines the plan to achieve a 100 percent increase in local agriculture production by 2020, a stronger invasive species policy and infrastructure by 2027, increased management of marine areas by 2030, and a complete transfer to clean, renewable energy by 2045.
The investment was announced Friday by Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono.
“Today’s investment recognizes Hawaii’s ongoing commitment to the protection and restoration of our forested watersheds, and will help enhance the health of our state’s unique ecosystems,” Hirono said.
Ungulates like pigs and goats, invasive species and forest diseases, drought and fire are all threats to Hawaii’s watersheds.
On Kauai, the watersheds are collectively overseen by the Kauai Watershed Alliance, which is a collaboration of 11 partners to care for the watersheds.
Some restoration is ongoing in places like Waipa, where the Waipa Foundation has taken charge of things like clearing an overabundance of hau bush from Waipa Stream.
On the Westside, a mediated agreement in May more than doubled the flow rates in the Waimea River system after diversions were removed from the Kekaha and Koloa ditch systems.
But officials say the prevalence of feral pigs and goats, invasive species and pathogens and other threats to forests and watersheds could prove dangerous for Kauai’s endemic species if care isn’t taken.
Hirono has also successfully advocated for the inclusion of Hawaii’s collaborative landscape proposal, “Island Forests at Risk,” in President Obama’s budget for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017.
As a result, nearly $27 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been provided to purchase and protect endangered species’ habitats, culturally significant areas and ecologically important lands in the Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge and Volcanoes National Park.