$11M for wildlife refuge

  • Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    This map shows the proposed location of the new Hanalei Valley Viewpoint.

  • Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    This graphic shows an aerial view of the elements of the proposed Hanalei Valley lookout along Kuhio Highway in Princeville.

HANALEI — The Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge is getting federal money for repairs and is one step closer to establishing a new lookout so people can see the restored refuge.

The cash is thanks to federal legislation that brings more than $80 million to help Hawaii recover from the flooding, lava and other natural disasters that have recently hit the state.

And $11.6 million of that is going to the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge to recover from last year’s flooding. Mike Mitchell, acting project leader, says that money will go to fixing the main irrigation intake on the Hanalei River for the refuge.

“This is the intake that provides all the water for the 160 acres of taro patches and the approximate 75 acres of wetland impoundments that are used to help recover the five endangered wetland birds,” Mitchell said Thursday, just minutes after hearing news of the approved legislation.

He continued: “That will definitely be enough for the short-term improvements plan.”

Also announced Thursday is the completed draft environmental assessment for the proposed Hanalei Valley Viewpoint at Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge.

There’s a public meeting about the plan set for May 29 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Hale Halawai in Hanalei.

The two-lookout viewpoint would replace the current lookout at the Ka Haku intersection by the Princeville Shopping Center and streamline traffic on Kuhio Highway, as well as provide a 24-car parking lot, a few short-term bus parking spots, and space for a park and ride transit hub for the North Shore Shuttle.

The two viewpoints would offer a chance to check out Hanalei Wildlife Refuge, which is usually closed to the public. There will also be a concrete walking trail and signage that explains the cultural history and community of the North Shore.

The viewpoint would be like a “gateway to the rest of the North Shore” and Mitchell points out the viewpoint will offer expansive views on both mauka and makai sides.

“From these sites you’ll be able to see both wetland impoundments of the refuge managed for the recovery of the water birds and, from afar, the birds using them,” Mitchell said. “You’ll also be able to see the loi (taro fields) of the Hanalei Valley.”

The panels included in the viewpoint plan will be designed to welcome people to the North Shore and to provide information on courtesies like how to navigate the one-lane bridges.

Cost of the project is about $3 million in total for basic site improvements and is funded by USFWS, Hawaii Department of Transportation and $70,000 in grants from the federal Transportation Alternatives Program.

To comment on the draft EA for the Hanalei Viewpoint Project, email hanalei@fws.gov.

••• Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at jelse@thegardenisland.com

2 Comments
  1. harryoyama May 24, 2019 1:16 pm Reply

    The problem with Federal money used to fix or restore wetlands is that it is spent all at once and not used to maintain such areas. I’ve personally witness how $millions of Federal funds that was used to clear and plant native plants to restore a 36 acre wetland area which was mainly failed in its mission because they hired contractors to plant but not maintain it in watering or weeding the area.

    Had I not volunteered to water it, most of the newly planted seedling would have died. The government workers responsible for the upkeep were a bunch of lazy useless people, who only came once a year for some photo opp, pretending to weed the area in order to update their website.

    What do you expect from GS federal government workers? What a waste of money.


  2. Neal Mathur May 25, 2019 9:40 am Reply

    How does this project affect/intersect with the $2.1 Million breach “fix” a couple of years ago… is that barrier still functioning and in place?


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