August 21, 2017

Over $600,000 Awarded to Restore Kawaihae Watershed, Improve Coral Reef Ecosystem

HONOLULU - Senator Mazie K. Hirono today announced that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has awarded $646,886 in grant funding to restore the Kawaihae watershed in West Hawaii. Kawaihae is considered to be one of the state’s most degraded watersheds.

“Protecting and restoring our forested watersheds is critical for the health and function of Hawaii’s ecosystems,” said Senator Hirono. “Today’s funding will help us repair damage to the Kawaihae watershed in West Hawaii caused by invasive species and wildfire and will reduce downstream impacts to our nearshore coral reefs.”

A partnership between NOAA, The Kohala Center, and a number of other entities, the Kawaihae Watershed Restoration project, located within NOAA’s West Hawaii Habitat Focus Area, is aimed at reducing land-based sediment runoff in the Kawaihae watershed to protect nearby coral reef ecosystems. This project is based on the Pelekane Bay project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2008.

"This critical funding from NOAA will enable The Kohala Center and the Kohala Watershed Partnership to restore one of the most degraded watersheds in NOAA’s West Hawaii Habitat Blueprint Focus Area,” said Anna-Lisa Okoye, Chief Operating Officer of The Kohala Center. “Through fencing, ungulate removal, and reforestation efforts, we will be able to stabilize the soil on Kohala Mountain, prevent erosion and sedimentation, protect our coral reefs, restore essential fish habitat, and rebuild fish stocks for a variety of marine life, including the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal."

As part of the grant funding:

  • 12 miles of fencing will be placed to protect 8,500 acres of habitat area;
  • More than 1,000 feral goats will be removed from the landscape; and
  • New native trees and shrubs will be planted around 10-acres of the adjacent watershed areas.

Last October Senator Hirono, as a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, hosted a field hearing on Oahu examining opportunities for public and private partnerships to protect forested watersheds in Hawaii. Forested watersheds are essential to protecting many of Hawaii’s natural resources, including our fresh water supply, oceans, and native species.   

For more information about Kawaihae Watershed Restoration project and the West Hawaii Habitat Focus Area, click here.

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