Kailua seeksKailua community groups applaud the state's plan to create an endangered bird sanctuary at Kawai Nui Marsh, but the state Department of Land and Natural Resources can't get started until it explains why it needs to erect a flood control maintenance facility on the marshland as well.
The project has stalled
over a proposal to build
a maintenance facility
By Treena Shapiro
The Kailua marsh is the largest wetland area in the state, but has been so overgrown it doesn't provide wildlife an adequate habitat. Some 70 acres of the marsh land will be restored to mudflats and ponds to create new homes for Hawaiian birds.
"One of the benefits of the project will be to create some additional habitat to attract the endangered birds and increase their numbers here on Oahu," said Paul Conry, the department's wildlife program manager. He hopes Hawaiian stilt, Koloa, Hawaiian moorhen, and maybe Hawaiian ducks and coots will flock to the marsh.
State's project applaudedThe site will also become a people attraction, with an educational center, parks, trails and ethnobotanical gardens.
Chuck Burrows, a Kawai Nui Heritage Foundation board member and president of "Ahahui Malama Ika Lokahi, has led tours of the marsh for years and leads service projects to help maintain the resource. He commends the state project, particularly the proposal to clear 17 acres of vegetation and turn it into compost.
"I'm supportive of the state's efforts ... provided measures are taken to control any type of runoff into the marsh," he said.
The major issue for community groups has been the construction of a flood control maintenance facility, which will be erected to protect existing and new equipment.
Following the 1988 New Year's flood, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers erected a flood control levee to protect the Coconut Grove subdivision.
The Land Department would like to add to that a flood control warning system that would have two gauges in the marsh and one on the Oneawa Canal bridge to indicate when there is potential for flooding from the mountain streams and marsh itself.
The project, still in the permitting process, would use about $40,000 in federal funding, said Sterling Yong, head of the flood control section.
Argument on the facilitiesA $350,000 maintenance yard -- including an office building, a storage building, seven storage containers and a parking area -- would be constructed to operate and maintain the flood control system at U.S. Army Corp of Engineers standards.
The Kailua Neighborhood Board accepted the state plan two years ago, provided it didn't include the maintenance yard or fence in the entire marsh.
"We thought that the maintenance yard would unnecessarily degrade the environment," said Jim Corcoran, chairman of the board's environmental committee. Run-off from the asphalt and leakage from vehicles and machinery are the major concerns.
Aesthetics also play a role in the board's objections. "Why do we need more structures on the marsh?" Corcoran asked.
"There's this beautiful marsh, this beautiful view plane, and here we are going to have some big hurricane fence blocking it?"
The board learned in March, however, that neither the facility nor the fence had been removed from the plan.
The state maintains the fence is necessary to keep predators out of the bird habitat, and the maintenance facility is needed to protect the flood control equipment.
Conry said the flood maintenance facility won't be in the same area as the wildlife sanctuary, and special precautions will be made to control runoff, perhaps by using absorbent materials or oil pans to collect any leakage.
Both the state and community groups will have the opportunity to comment on the project on Jan. 22, at a public hearing for the issuance of a special management area use permit.
The hearing had been scheduled for a previous date, but was postponed at the Kailua Neighborhood Board's request.
"It may just be that there's a cogent necessity for the maintenance yard, but they haven't come to us and explained it to us," Corcoran said.
"We just need answers to all this."