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After more than a year, Kahoolawe restoration work finally set to resume

The watershed project, which will take place at the northwestern area of Hakioawa, involves the...
The watershed project, which will take place at the northwestern area of Hakioawa, involves the installation of irrigation pipeline, thousands of native plants, and erosion berms.(KIRC)
Published: Jun. 1, 2021 at 3:03 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 3:04 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Restoration work is set to begin again on Kahoolawe after a large brushfire scorched a third of the island and the pandemic reduced volunteer efforts.

This fall, the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission will oversee a 14-month initiative centered on improving the island’s water quality and reducing sediment runoff.

“The surface of the island, if you can see behind me, is all that red hardpan,” said KIRC Executive Director Michael Nahoopii.

“That is all the exposed soil that’s on the island. For over 200 years, the goats ate most of the vegetation on the island and what was left was just the bare dirt and after the wind would come through, they would blow all the soil off the island.”

Nahoopii says about a million pounds of silt goes from the island to the surrounding reefs each year.

The watershed project, which will take place at the northwestern area of Hakioawa, involves the installation of irrigation pipeline, thousands of native plants, and erosion berms.

Most of the work will be near the surface as the island is not completely clear of unexploded ordnance from decades of naval bombing drills.

“As the dirt builds up behind these berms, we’ll have clean soil that we can put in the plants into the ground into those clean areas and then let the roots penetrate into the soil that has the bombs in it,” Nahoopii said. “So it’s new things we had to create because of unexploded ordnance on the island.”

The project is funded by the state Department of Health and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It’s the first major restoration effort since a February 2020 brush fire, which burned about 9,000 acres.

“We haven’t even started the recovery effort for that yet because as soon as February, the fire hit, we went into lockdown for COVID,” Nahoopii said.

“We really didn’t haven’t come out of that period of post-fire restoration work.”

KIRC is seeking volunteers for the efforts and will also be collaborating with the Protect Kahoolawe ohana. If you’re interested in helping out, visit kahoolawe.hawaii.gov or protectkahoolaweohana.org.

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