Developer Fined for Despoiling Hawaii's Largest Wetland

HONOLULU, Hawaii, February 2, 2008 (ENS) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Thursday fined Frank Coluccio Construction Co. and Castle Family LLC a total of $68,000 for filling sensitive wetlands without federal permits.

The fill, adjacent to Hamakua Stream near Kailua on the island of Oahu, affected the largest wetland in the Hawaiian islands, the Kawainui Marsh.

Under an agreement with Castle Family LLC, Coluccio had cleared wetland vegetation at the site to create a project equipment and materials staging area.

Coluccio filled just under one acre of wetlands which are part of a larger system running from the Kawainui Marsh to Kaelepulu Pond and the Pacific Ocean.

“We will protect the Kailua wetlands from illegal filling and ensure it is restored to provide water bird habitat, flood storage, and protect the island’s coastal water quality,” said Alexis Strauss, water division director for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region.

Kawainui Marsh near Kailua,
Oahu (Photo by C. Nick)

“When wetlands are filled, these important ecological functions are lost. Any discharge of fill to wetlands or streams requires a federal permit,” she said.

At over 800 acres, Kawainui Marsh is the largest wetland in the Hawaiian Islands. Located on the windward side of Oahu, it is owned by the State of Hawaii and the City and County of Honolulu. This marsh is a Ramsar Convention nomination site.

Hawaiian scientists and conservationists, and volunteers from Hawaiian cultural organizations, high schools, Boy Scouts, faith groups and other community groups have put thousands of hours of labor into the restoration of Kawainui Marsh.

In response to complaints by Kailua residents, in February 2005 the Hawaii Department of Health and federal EPA officials inspected the site and noted that large stockpiles of excavated soil and rock had been dumped into the wetland habitat, although neither company had obtained the required permit.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers informed Coluccio and Kaneohe Ranch Company, Ltd., the Castle Family LLC property manager, that Clean Water Act permits are required for the filling of wetlands.

The EPA then ordered the companies to develop and implement a plan to remove the fill from the wetlands and restore the habitat with native plants and appropriate re-grading.

The companies also must monitor the restoration site, evaluate its success, and submit annual reports to EPA for up to five years.

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