The Aimakapa fish pond at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park is seen in this photo provided by the National Park Service. Park officials are planning an environmental assessment to determine the best way to remove invasive species from the pond and surrounding wetlands. (Special to West Hawaii Today/National Park Service, Adam Johnson)
One of the two naturally occurring brackish wetlands on the Kona Coast is due for major restoration work, which National Park Service officials hope will help improve conditions for endangered bird species within the park.
The park service is gathering public input as it puts together a restoration plan for the Aimakapa Fishpond Wetlands at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park.
Park officials are hosting an open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 8 about the proposed restoration work. Chief of Integrated Resources Sallie Beavers said the park service won’t be drafting the management plan until after hearing the public’s concerns. The Sept. 8 meeting kicks off the process which will eventually lead to an environmental assessment looking at different ways the service can go about removing invasive species from the historic fishpond.
A 1994 environmental impact statement touched upon the need for a management plan to restore the wetlands, Beavers said. That plan didn’t go into the level of detail the upcoming plan will, she added.
The goal of the EA will be “to make sure we’re thinking about all the different resources — natural resources and cultural resources — so when we remove alien vegetation from around cultural sites, that doesn’t damage those sites,” Beaver said. “We’re planners. If we’re going to do something big, we want to have considered all of the good ways to do it.”
Another consideration is what impact removing the alien vegetation may have upon the bird species, the endangered Hawaiian stilt and Hawaiian coot, that inhabit the wetlands. One long-term park goal is to increase the park’s bird populations, Beavers said.
Park officials want to know what methods are appropriate for removing invasive vegetation, she added. Certainly hand removal is one option, Beavers said. Officials are investigating whether any kind of mechanized removal might also be possible.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Plan for Hawaiian Waterbirds designates the pond as core habitat for the bird species, park officials said. The waterbird populations at Aimakapa have declined “significantly” in recent years, officials said on the park’s website, noting they believe the decline is likely related to loss of open water and mudflat habitats because of the increased growth of invasive plant species. The invasive plants are also threatening archaeological features, including structural platforms, rock walls and petroglyphs, officials said.
Beavers said officials hope to have the assessment process completed by June.