Monday, February 20, 2017

Kaneohe Neighborhood Board Learns More About He’eia Wetlands Research Reserve Project

Conserving Kaneohe Bay was a key topic at our February meeting. Speakers told us that the federal government stands ready to work with local groups and the state to improve management of the state’s largest sheltered body of water.
The presentations came on the heels of federal designation of 1,385 acres around the He’eia Wetlands in the bay as a National Estuarine Research Reserve. The designation, announced in January, said the federal government will provide 70 percent of the project’s funding, about $700,000, with the state expected to pay the rest. The Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, based on Coconut Island in the bay, is to manage the project.
Rob Toonen
Rob Toonen, a researcher at the institute, told our meeting that the project will integrate traditional management practices with modern science to manage the area. He said local nonprofit groups that are dedicated to those management practices initiated the process which led to the research reserve designation.
Board Member Mahealani Cypher told the meeting that the project will include educational programs for students in Grades K-12. And she said the project will develop facilities that will provide a long-term economic benefit to the Kaneohe Bay area.
Both speakers noted that the Legislature is considering two measures that would provide the state’s 30 percent share of funding for the reserve. The measures are House Bill 588 and Senate Bill 1178.
In addition to the funding, the bills would authorize four staff positions, all through the University of Hawaii. Those positions would be a reserve manager, education coordinator, research coordinator and cultural resources coordinator.
The text and status of House Bill 588 and Senate Bill 1178 are available online (click on the highlighted items for details).
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