Grant funding is being sought for a Pepeekeo project to plant nearly 19 acres of timber for eventual harvest and restore more than 4 acres of riparian areas along the Waiaama Stream.
Kaupakuea Orchards, located on Kaupakuea Homestead Road, is seeking Hawaii Forest Stewardship Program cost-sharing grants to cover half of the cost of restoring riparian areas along the Waiaama Stream and half the cost for planting and maintaining, for the first five years, high-value hardwood timber trees to be harvested no sooner than 30 years after planting. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife administers the cost-sharing grant program.
“The proposed actions would replace invasive species with native species and high-value hardwood species. This improves natural resources of biodiversity, habitat and forest cover. This project improves cultural resources by expanding the area on Hawaii Island dedicated to native forest preservation,” a final environmental assessment for a forest management plan developed for the project reads.
The final assessment recently received a finding of no significant impact by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources allowing the project to move forward. The Board of Land and Natural Resources accepted the finding during its October meeting.
The restoration area along Waiaama Stream would cover 4.4 acres and include the removal of invasive species and replanting of native species such as ohia and ferns. The most dominant invasive weed species identified along the stream was strawberry guava, Psidiumcattleianum.
The native species to be planted would not include endangered native species because “survival rates are not optimal,” according to the final environmental assessment.
The proposed area for timber planting and harvest comprises 18.8 acres once used for sugar production between 1900 and 1994. An estimated 2.8 acres is currently forested, with the remainder being listed as pastureland predominantly covered with African grasses and assorted broadleaf species.
The cost-sharing grant funding sought for the timber component of the project would only be used during the first five years following planting, which would be completed within the first three years, to cover maintenance. The trees would not be harvested for at least 30 years and therefore that part of the project is not covered by the assessment.
The final assessment does not list specific varieties of trees that would be grown on the 18.8 acres other than that they would fall between one and six on the University of Hawaii’s weed risk assessment scale. However, the plan’s draft environmental assessment, notes varieties such as eucalyptus and koa.
A draft environmental assessment was completed and released for 30-day public review in July with one response coming from the Hawaii County Planning Department. The department noted simply the applicant’s conformity with county and state zoning and informed them no permits would be required for the project.
The EA was required because state grant funding is being sought for project that includes plans for timber production and harvest as well as fencing an area larger than 10 acres. Only the cost-sharing for the timber component of the project is under review in the document.