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Kawainui Marsh restoration planned

By Gary T. Kubota

LAST UPDATED: 1:59 a.m. HST, Jul 30, 2011

State and federal officials have formed a partnership to restore a portion of the 800-acre Kawainui Marsh in Kailua — the habitat for four endangered water birds.

The agreement on the Kawainui Marsh Environmental Restoration Project, signed Friday, will help the endangered koloa maoli, or Hawaiian duck; aeo, or Hawaiian stilt; alae ula, or Hawaiian moorhen; and alae keokeo, or Hawaiian coot.

The 37.8-acre project also calls for increasing the endangered bird population, creating more scenic open space, reducing upland runoff into coastal reefs and removing alien weeds from the marsh. State officials said the project's cost will range from $4 million to $6 million, with the federal government paying 75 percent of the cost and the state the remainder.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be responsible for the contracting and construction of the project, which is expected to start this year or next.

Laura Stevens, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, said the project will serve as the foundation for educational, environmental, cultural, recreational, community and volunteer efforts to restore the wildlife habitat in the marsh. Stevens said that without restoration the marsh will remain in a state of degradation with little value for wildlife and community use.

Work on the project will include the development of 11 terraced shallow ponds on 24 acres, an earthen berm system accessible by light-duty maintenance vehicles, and a system suppling water to the ponds using two solar-powered well pumps and water-level control structures.

Kawainui Marsh was an inland sea about 4,000 years ago, according to scientists, but soil runoff and an accumulation of sand formed a sandbar that eventually became Kailua town and Coconut Grove.

State officials said the project implements portions of wildlife habitat restoration in the 1994 Kawainui Marsh Master and Hawaii Endangered Waterbird Recovery plans.

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