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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, July 20, 2003

Grant helps Kawainui project

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

KAILUA — Young plants at a historical site in Kawaimui Marsh will have a better chance of surviving when water catchment tanks are installed, thanks to a $63,000 federal grant.

Chuck Burrows points to some of the native plant species planted by volunteers at Na Pohaku o Hauwahine, overlooking Kawainui Marsh on the Windward side.

Advertiser library photo

Kawai Nui Heritage Foundation and 'Ahahui Malama I Ka Lokahi will begin preliminary plans to install a watering system at Na Po-

haku o Hauwahine, a 12-acre area with a rock formation said to represent the Hawaiian mo'o goddess who is said to be the guardian of the Windward marsh.

They hope to have the project completed within six months.

The organizations have been restoring and caring for the site since 1997, clearing unwanted foliage and replacing them with about 400 endemic or indigenous Hawaiian plants in the past two years alone. But members spend countless hours hauling about two dozen 5-gallon containers to the site to irrigate new plants.

Progress at the site is slow because there is no accessible water, said Chuck Burrows, an organizer of the restoration.

"That's the limiting factor, the water," Burrows said. "Especially for plants that are three or four years old, they need constant care."

The North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant for the native plant restoration project in the marsh will allow the groups to expand their scope of work, which is complementary to the state and Army Corps of Engineers projects at the marsh, said Sharon Reilly, Hawai'i wetlands conservation manager for Ducks Unlimited, which is administering the grant.

The Army Corps is planning to restore wetlands in the marsh to create more habitat for the endangered water birds that live there. The project includes creating 70.7 acres of mudflats and shallow pond, clearing 17 acres of vegetation, trapping predators and installing protective fencing.

The state's plan for the marsh calls for an education center, cultural parks, ethno-botanical gardens, agricultural areas, passive parks and a trail system.

"They are all tied together," Reilly said. "They are moving everything toward a common vision for Kawainui Marsh, which is a recreational, cultural and wildlife resource."

The grant was made possible because of the many volunteers who have worked at Na Pohaku o Hauwahine, Burrows said. Hundreds of them have logged more than 3,800 man hours there since 1999 and the grant allowed leveraging those volunteer hours into matching dollars, he said. The hours equaled $165,292 in matching funds.

The watering system will include two small catchment tanks in the lower area of the site and a large one on the upper slopes, Burrows said. The lower tanks will be connected to drip irrigation.

The groups are also looking into hooking up to city water — a very expensive option between $10,000 and $15,000. That would provide water for drinking and washing up, he said. Taking water from the marsh was also considered, but that would require filtering and Burrows said he wasn't sure that would be feasible.

The grant also included money for plants.

Since 1997, the groups have made trails at the site, cleared unwanted brush, opened the marsh below and planted hundreds of native plants. They also want to build a shelter and parking lot for buses so schoolchildren don't have to cross Kapa'a Quarry Road to get to the site.