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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 12, 2006

Over $950,000 pooled to restore Kawai Nui Marsh

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

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KAILUA A partnership of government agencies and private entities has secured more than $950,000 for a Kawai Nui Marsh restoration plan, which could pave the way for an educational center there.

Earlier this month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded $646,250 to the partnership to restore 20 acres of habitat and vegetation along the slopes of Kapa'a Quarry Road just below Le Jardin Academy. The project also calls for the enhancement of 60 acres in the wetland, including flood mitigation, said David Smith, O'ahu wildlife manager for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The state and private partners kicked in an additional $312,500 for the project, Smith said. The partners, including The Wildlife Society and Le Jardin, also have discussed building an education center in the marsh, he said.

The talk about an education center is in the very early stages, and there have not been any definitive proposals about what features such a center might have. In the past, backers have talked about interactive and historical displays. There also is some question about where it would be located.

Adrian Allan, headmaster of Le Jardin, said the school supports the partnership and the move to build an educational center in the marsh. Le Jardin students would benefit and could become volunteers there, Allan said.

"We feel it would be a good example of living ecology rather than this theoretical ecology the kids hear about," he said.

The restoration site is adjacent to a much larger project proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers. That $5 million wetland project would create 40 acres of ponds, restore 2,800 feet of stream bank habitat, and install water-bird protection fencing among other improvements.

The Army Corps project has been held up because the city and state have not reached agreement on who would be responsible for flood control in the area in the marsh. The city and the state are working to resolve the issue.

The partnership restoration project would dovetail with the Army Corps plans by adding habitat near the ponds, Smith said. The project is on state land and is not affected by the flood control issue, he said.

Smith, who also is president of The Wildlife Society Hawai'i branch, has been responsible for requesting and obtaining more than $400,000 in grants to improve the neighboring Hamakua Marsh. His organization of professional wildlife biologists and his state office have also raised millions for habitat purchase, including in Moanalua and Manana Valley.

Smith said without the participation of residents and nonprofit groups, the state, which oversees the marsh, wouldn't be able to accomplish nearly as much. Businesses, women prisoners and the city also have contributed to improvements there, he said.

"Getting everybody into the ball game is what really does it," Smith said. "Nobody can do it alone."

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.