Government delays endangered marsh
The city and state have agreed on a restoration plan for Kawainui Marsh.
FORMATION of Kawainui Marsh from a volcanic caldera to wetlands took millions of years, so by comparison, the 17 years that have passed since its transfer from city to state hands was authorized is a mere drop in the geological bucket.
The long-running episode, during which the two governments squabbled over jurisdictional issues, may soon end if the state Legislature, as it should, approves a measure that settles the disputes and provides funds for the marsh's management. The delay has undoubtedly impaired the wetland's ecology.
Kawainui's restoration has been largely in limbo due to disagreement between the city and state over who should be accountable for flood control and other responsibilities. In 1990, a law directed the transfer of city-held land that encompasses the marsh to the state, but city officials argued that the state, then, should also take responsibility for flood control. No, said the state; flood control is the city's duty.
As this back-and-forth went on, the federal government would not move forward on providing the millions of dollars sought by U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye for Kawainui's restoration.
Under the new agreement, the city will give up its portion of the nearly 900-acre marsh and the state will take over maintenance of a levee. The city will still maintain an adjoining canal and both governments will be liable should there be a major flood.
The settlement will allow restoration of the internationally recognized marsh that is primary habitat for four of Hawaii's endangered and endemic water birds and that contains archaeological and cultural sites.
That the agreement took 17 years to achieve should be an embarrassment to government.
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