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Hawaii readies to reforest scorched swath of Kauai

LIHUE >> State officials in Hawaii are preparing to begin reforesting 1,000 acres of reserve land on Kauai that burned in 2012.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources will remove 15,000 tons of scorched eucalyptus and pine trees from the Kokee area and put in native and non-invasive plants.

The Garden Island newspaper reports that the restoration is designed to protect the land against flash floods and erosion. Most of the wood will go to Green Energy Team, a nearby facility that turns biomass into energy.

“We really believe that when this whole thing is done there will be better opportunities for hunting, recreation and public access, and more safe, usable roads than there are now,” said Sheri Mann, a project manager at the department.

She estimated the project could cost $4 million. The department has until June 2016 to finish the project.

Area residents said they’re worried about the effects the project will have on public safety and the environment. The department will hold public hearings to address concerns around businesses, tourism and roads, Mann said.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie approved the Kokee Area Restoration and Reforestation project last year in an emergency proclamation. The project aims to ease the damage brought by three fires that burned 3,000 acres around Kokee.

The nature of the proclamation allowed the department to move forward on the project without an environmental assessment. The department is putting one together anyway, and that it should be available to the public later this year, Mann said.

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