Tuesday | September 27, 2016
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Restoring Maui wetlands would cost $11.5M

WAILUKU, Maui — The federal government is considering restoring wetland that once surrounded the royal residence of King Kamehameha III before the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom moved to Honolulu in 1845.

The Army Corps of Engineers anticipates a restored wetland would be used by the endangered Hawaiian stilt and coot as well as migratory water and shorebirds.

An Army Corps study estimated it would cost $11.5 million to restore Loko o Mokuhinia, The Maui News reported.

But Army Corps spokesman Joseph Bonfiglio said it’s impossible to predict whether future federal budgets will include funds for the project.

Loko o Mokuhinia was a 17-acre pond that surrounded the ancient island of Mokuula, which served as the royal residence of King Kamehameha III in the 19th century.

The island and the pond now sit about 2 to 3 feet underground in a county park. In the early 20th century, the pond had become stagnated and was filled “for hygienic and development purposes” in 1914, state records show.

The county and Friends of Mokuula, meanwhile, are engaged in a larger effort to revitalize and preserve the historic and archaeological features of Mokuula. They also want to establish an area reserved for future use by the Friends of Mokuula.

Ultimately, the fate of the project will depend on funding, said Zeke Kalua, executive assistant to Mayor Alan Arakawa. If the proposed project were approved, the federal government and the county would share the cost, Bonfiglio said.

The wetland restoration project would include grading to provide shallow wetland slopes, installation of a groundwater well, planting native wetland vegetation and installing a predator-proof fence.