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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Kaho'olawe reservoir project planned

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau

The Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission is planning its first major construction project, a $1.5 million rain catchment and reservoir system designed to restore vegetation to the island's summit.

The project, expected to get under way in April, is aimed at helping battle the soil erosion that has plagued the island for decades.

Kaho'olawe suffers from a lack of natural freshwater resources. Grazing animals and military bombing practice accelerated erosion in the last century. What remains is a hardpan landscape at the 1,477-foot Luamakika region, the eroded remnant of a volcanic crater and the island's highest point.

The construction project, to be spread over three acres, consists of two 150,000-gallon tanks and a 100,000-gallon tank, a rain-collecting apron, a pump house and transmission pipes.

The plan is to irrigate 28 acres in a region important to Kaho'olawe's history. There is a high concentration of historic sites near the rim of Luamakika, and the fertile soil — helped by water trapped in the crater — made it a center for agriculture in ancient times.

No significant adverse impacts are expected from the six-month project, according to a draft environmental assessment.

The project's $1.5 million price tag is inflated by at least a third because of the logistical problems created by the remote location, said Kelly Chuck, project manager with Marc M. Siah & Associates in Honolulu.

Another problem is that the foundations of the structures can't exceed a depth of three feet, a safety measure to avoid any buried ordnance.

Kelly said that special care was given during the design process to ensure the structures have a minimal impact on archaeological and cultural sites.

The Navy retains administrative control of Kaho'olawe until environmental restoration and unexploded ordnance removal is completed — or until Nov. 11, 2003, whichever comes first. The Luamakika area was one of the first areas cleared of ordnance.

The deadline for comment on the draft environmental report is March 11.

Comments should be submitted to the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission at 811 Kolu St., Suite 201, Wailuku, HI 96793.