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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 28, 2001

FAA presence inside Diamond Head vanishes

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Bureau

Not a trace remains of the old Federal Aviation Administration building in the Diamond Head Crater.

Frances Kama-Silva of Henry's Equipment checks irrigation lines and pulls a few weeds at the site of the old FAA air traffic control center inside Diamond Head Crater. The site has been planted with native Hawaiian species to restore the original environment.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

On Wednesday, contractors were taking down the fencing — the only signs that a building sat on 3.1 acres at one end of the crater for 43 years. Now all that remains are new plantings of wiliwili trees, Hawaiian cotton and ilima bushes.

Sprinkler pipes criss-cross the site, dropping water to newly planted bushes and trees. In a year, this area will resemble the rest of the crater.

That's the hope of the FAA, which for 38 years had used the building to guide Hawai'i-bound aircraft from 250 miles outside the Islands to within 20 miles of their intended airport. The building housed about 100 employees, now at the FAA's expanded facility on Hickam Air Force Base.

The federal agency has spent an estimated $1.7 million demolishing the building at Diamond Head, removing hazardous materials and replanting the area with native plants.

"After the building went, we graded to what we thought was the pre-existing slope," said Frances Kama-Silva, co-owner of one of the firms hired to do the work.

The plants were chosen in concert with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which reviewed historical data of what the area looked like before the federal buildings were put in place, said Tweet Coleman, FAA spokeswoman.

Now that the work is completed, the federal government plans to hand the area over to the state, Coleman said. That transfer should occur in late October.

While the FAA has moved out of the crater, the National Guard still has buildings there. The National Guard may not leave its facilities for at least five years and has an agreement with the state that would allow it to stay until 2029.

Removal of the government buildings is key to the state's plan for preserving the volcanic crater. Plans call for an interpretive center as well as a system of trails throughout the nearly 500 acres that make up the Diamond Head State Monument.

"It's the first major step of putting the crater back to a natural state," said Clyde Hosokawa, state Department of Land and Natural Resource park program manager. "This is the first major thing after working on a plan for 25 years."