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State preserves Hamakua Marsh in Kailua

By Jill Kuramoto
Published On: Feb 13 2013 01:42:00 PM HST

A windward Oahu hillside property once proposed for a senior retirement home will now be preserved as open space forever.

KAILUA, Hawaii -

A Windward Oahu hillside property once proposed for a senior retirement home will now be preserved as open space forever under a land deal officially announced by the state Wednesday.

The birds were the stars of the show at the event held on the shoreline of the Hamakua Marsh.

Native Hawaiian waterbirds, endangered, but growing in numbers thanks to the joint efforts of federal, state and local community members.

“So really, what this project is, is a good demonstration area for what we can do in other areas,” said David Smith, Department of Land and Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Oahu Branch Manager.

The state is the proud new owner of 67 acres of the Hamakua hillside, and promises the land will never get built on or paved over.

It's a deal fulfilling a promise by Kaneohe Ranch to protect Hamakua Marsh.

“Occasionally, you get the opportunity to do exactly the right thing,” said Mitch D’Olier, Kaneohe Ranch Management Ltd. president and CEO.

Together with a project underway to restore the ponds at adjacent Kawainui Marsh, the state is looking at improving and protecting the state's largest remaining natural wetland.

“Not just the bird resources, the wholistic resources of Hawaii, the watershed protecting the coral reefs. That’s the message we want to get across,” said William Aila, DLNR Chairman.

An on-going project is underway to improve the quality of the windward water system, with the wetlands playing an integral part of that.

“We’ve been studying the water from all the way down at the ocean, all the way up to the headwaters at this stream and so the idea to eventually tie the whole network together,” said Smith.  "How long that will take?  It's hard to say."

“I’ve been working on this project for 30 years, so patience is definitely part of the equation,” said Smith.

Past struggles to get this far is now water under the bridge.  Time now to look forward to restoring a native forest on the hillside and making sure the birds make a healthy comeback.

The land deal cost $1.17 million with the state using $450,000 from its Legacy Land Conservation Program and the rest from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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