State Legislature Protects Watersheds with Funding
An estimated $6.5 million in Capital Improvement Project funding was authorized by the Hawai‘i Legislature for fiscal year 2019, including three critical projects on Kaua‘i that will protect approximately 4,000 acres of priority watersheds through fencing.
Conservation fencing allows people to access Kaua‘i’s remote native forests for recreation and gathering, while preventing damage from feral pigs, goats and deer. Keeping non-native, feral animals out of native forests protects the natural and cultural resources therein, and the islands’ fresh water supply. This work also helps protect the island during extreme weather events by lessening the effects of flooding and sediment accumulation on nearshore coral reefs.
The CIP funding will help complete conservation fences described in the Kaua‘i Watershed Alliance (KWA) management plan for the southeastern portion of the Alakaʻi Plateau. The fences will be located on both state and private lands of KWA members, who are landowners who have come together for the protection of fresh water and native forests on Kaua‘i.
The Alakaʻi Plateau includes the Alakaʻi Wilderness Preserve, which receives high amounts of rainfall (200 to 240 inches per year) and is an important watershed for the Koaiʻe-Waimea and Wainiha Rivers. The landscape includes scattered bogs, native-dominated wet forests and long, deeply incised valleys. The preserve was designated in 1981 by the State of Hawaiʻi Board of Land and Natural Resources “for the purpose of preserving, protecting, and conserving all manner of flora and fauna” (Chapter 13-3-1, Hawaii Administrative Rules).
“These fences will ensure the protection of our native forests, which are the source of Kaua‘i’s supply of fresh water.” said Sheri Mann, Kaua‘i branch manager, Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW). “I applaud the state legislature for securing funding that will allow for immediate preparation for work in the units, safeguarding these areas for future generations.”
“Collaboration is at the heart of conservation and we appreciate the many voices and hands that are working together to prioritize watershed protection projects,” said Melissa Fisher, Nature Conservancy Kaua‘i Program Director. “This could not have happened without residents’ and elected officials’ support. We particularly appreciate our Kaua‘i Representatives Dee Morikawa, Nadine Nakamura, and James Tokioka, and Senate President Ron Kouchi who consistently make natural resource protection a priority consideration.”
The contracting processes for fencing projects is set to move forward at the beginning of the next fiscal year.