POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 29, 2013
WAILUKU » The federal government is considering restoring wetland that once surrounded the royal residence of King Kamehameha III before the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom moved to Honolulu in 1845.
The Army Corps of Engineers anticipates a restored wetland would be used by the endangered Hawaiian stilt and coot as well as migratory water and shorebirds, The Maui News reports.
An Army Corps study estimates it would cost $11.5 million to restore Loko o Mokuhinia.
But Army Corps spokesman Joseph Bonfiglio says it's impossible to predict whether future federal budgets will include funds for the project.
Loko o Mokuhinia was a 17-acre pond that surrounded the ancient island of Mokuula, which served as the royal residence of King Kamehameha III in the 19th century.
The site of the island and the pond now sit about 2 to 3 feet underground in a county park. In the early 20th century, the pond had become stagnated and was filled "for hygienic and development purposes" in 1914, state records show.
The county and Friends of Mokuula, meanwhile, are engaged in a larger effort to revitalize and preserve the historic and archaeological features of Mokuula. They also want to establish an area reserved for future use by the Friends of Mokuula.
"The ultimate goal here is to restore Mokuula island to what it was prior to it being buried," said Blossom Feiteira, who became Friends of Mokuula executive director in May. "We know it was a sacred retreat of the alii lines, but it is (now) a cultural site buried under tons of rocks and debris. We need to provide opportunities for Native Hawaiians to understand our political history here in Lahaina."
Ultimately, the fate of the project will depend on available funding, said Zeke Kalua, executive assistant to Mayor Alan Arakawa. If the proposed project were approved, the federal government and the county would share the cost of the redevelopment, Bonfiglio said.
The wetland restoration project would include grading to provide shallow wetland slopes, installation of a groundwater well, planting native wetland vegetation and installing a predator-proof fence.