East End forest restoration project now under review

The 30-day comment period has begun for the Draft Environmental Assessment for the Kainalu Mesic Forest Restoration Project on Molokai’s East End.

The public has until Aug. 21 to comment on Lance “Kip” Dunbar’s project to protect and restore about 15 acres of land bordering two riparian streams at about 1,700-feet elevation at Kainalu. Historically, the land was used for agriculture, cattle, and forest conservation.

The portion of East Molokai affected by the restoration project.

Non-native and invasive plant species will be removed and replaced with native plant species. The parcel includes habitat for 11 federally endangered native species. As part of the project, a 1.5-mile fence will be constructed to confine cattle and other feral ungulates such as pigs, deers and goats to pasture areas and to restrict movement into two riparian areas. Fencing will be done along the pasture borders.

Additionally, by limiting access into the riparian areas the project will greatly reduce erosion and sedimentation to the near shore reef system. Overall, the project will not negatively affect the environment, infrastructure, public facilities, social or economic factors but help the watershed and natural resources. For these reasons, the Department of Land and Natural Resources anticipates a finding of no significant impact.

Back in October 2010, Dunbar received an exemption from the Molokai Planning Commission on a related project in the same area. The request was for a Special Management Area assessment exemption for the Pu’uone Waterbird Preserve Project. This is also in the same area of Kainalu, near Dunbar’s two beachfront cottages used as vacation rentals.

Despite protests from community members that Dunbar may not stick to the plan designed by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, the MoPC went ahead and approved the SMA exemption. Dunbar’s plan involved the dredging of certain lands in an effort to restore wetlands used during bird migrations.

“It’s kind of a labor of love,” Dunbar testified. “I’ve been trying to do this for three years now.”

Local bird expert and conservationist Arleone Dibbins-Young testified in favor of the project. “ I support this,” she said. “The federal process is very strict and he has responded to everything.”

The protests from neighbors concerned the use of heavy equipment for excavating and the possibility of water diversion. However, the plan showed no dredging deeper than two feet. Dunbar also agreed to archeological monitoring.

Comments on this project can be sent to State of Hawaii, Department of Land and Natural Resources, OCCL, P.O. Box 621, Honolulu, Hawaii 96803. Contact Dawn Hegger at the DLNR, 587-0380, for more information.


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