If each of the Hawaiian Islands were able to experience some sort of emotional state of being, then Kaho‘olawe would definitely fall in the not-very-happy category. For five decades, the U.S. Navy used the island for target practice–dropping bombs and firing torpedoes into it in the hopes that it make us all safer. It’s hard to say if the navy ever achieved that goal, but they certainly did pump ordnance into the island–in fact, there are still places around Kaho’olawe where it’s not safe to tread.
Which is why it’s so nice to finally get some good news for the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC), which has also had to deal with bad financial news for the past few years–namely, the fact that the KIRC’s trust fund, which provides its operating funds, has dwindled from $33 million in 2003 to just $6.5 million today, according to a state auditor’s report released in July.
In any case, an Aug. 26 press release from the KIRC says the state Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will be giving the KIRC a two-year grant for work on the island’s Hakioawa watershed.
Located on the island’s northern shore, the Hakioawa watershed project site is 108.7 acres in size. Project work, according to the press release, will include soil erosion control, planting native shrubs on irrigation and removing non-native weeds.” Work will also include “vegetation analysis, measuring rates of soil erosion and quantifying ocean sediment outfall from Hakioawa watershed.”
Soil erosion has long been a problem on the island, and dates to the years before the Navy took it over, when it was used for ranching. According to the KIRC release, nearly two million tons of soil is lost on Kaho‘olawe every year.
“The Department of Health, U.S. EPA and Clean Water Act funding to the KIRC and the hundreds of volunteers that have donated their time and energy to this project have been instrumental to furthering our mission to protect, preserve and restore the Reserve’s historical, archaeological and environmental resources,” said KIRC executive director Michael Naho‘opi‘i in the press release. “With their support, the Commission has broken new ground in developing innovative solutions to overcome physical and logistical challenges that no other State agency or organization in Hawai‘i has faced in an endeavor that is for the future of Hawai‘i and its people.”
Photo of Kaho’olawe’s Hakioawa watershed: Forest and Kim Starr/Wikimedia Commons