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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 16, 2010

North Shore wetland refuge getting seven times bigger

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Cassandra Tongi, 10, Jurell Kai, 9, and Teeya Le'i use binoculars to study waterbirds at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge. Expansion of the 150-acre refuge to 1,100 acres was dedicated yesterday.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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KAHUKU The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is acquiring one of the last remaining wild coastlines on O'ahu, increasing a wetland refuge sevenfold since it was established 34 years ago.

The purchase will also provide another flood control measure to the community, thanks to a $22 million federal appropriation.

The acquisition was marked by a celebration yesterday at the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, which will expand from its original 150 acres to 1,100 acres once all the paperwork is completed with the James Campbell Co.

The refuge was established in 1976, under a $1-a-year lease, to protect wetland habitat for four endangered Hawaiian birds.

Future plans for the site include more wetland ponds, trails, a boardwalk to the shoreline and a visitor center.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye and others in the Hawai'i congressional delegation helped acquire the money, something they worked on for almost a decade in response to pleas for flood mitigation in Kahuku.

Also yesterday, Inouye announced that he has secured an additional $6 million for flood mitigation work at Kahuku High and Intermediate School.

Inouye said he had declined an invitation to sit on a Senate commission that would find ways to cut the cost of government "because then I would have to go along with the commission's recommendations which would mean no (to) Kahuku High School and none of this visitor center, because they're all considered earmarks," Inouye said.

"I want to be placed in the independent position where I can fight for projects which I feel benefit not only Hawai'i and our people but our nation."

"We figure the acquisition of this land for wildlife can only benefit the community, and we look forward to being a good partner with the Wildlife (Service)," said Junior Primacio, a Ko'olauloa Neighborhood Board member.

Primacio thanked the Democratic senator for helping with the purchase for the refuge and for his help in getting flood studies needed for financing three bridge upgrades that also reduce flooding.

"We really appreciate the senator, but the problem is not over yet," Primacio said.

Inouye said he would do his best to secure money for similar projects.

Robyn Thorson, regional director for the Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Region, said planners for the area are thinking big.

The refuge has 27 acres of wetland, and the plan is to add 270 more acres of wetland, Thorson said.

Once the purchase is completed, perhaps by the end of the year, the refuge will have two miles of undeveloped coastline, 250 acres of sand dunes and coastal habitat stretching from Kahuku town to Marconi Road, she said.

The plan includes predator protection and removal of invasive plants that will attract different kinds of birds, Thorson said, adding that the hope is that the area will become a home for sea turtles and monk seals.

"This added land will change the refuge for better and forever," Thorson said.

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