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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
••• Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at email@example.com