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Construction underway for the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge viewpoint

PRINCEVILLE — Visitors and residents can look forward to a new spot to enjoy the beauty of the Hanalei Valley as seen from above it.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the state Department of Transportation Highways Division, has begun work at the site of the new Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge viewpoint along Kuhio Highway, just east of the Princeville Shopping Center.

The new viewpoint will have signs, interpretive displays and native plants. It will provide residents and visitors with opportunities to learn about the natural and cultural history of the Hanalei Valley and the Hanalei NWR.

“Educating the public about the cultural history and the irreplaceable cultural resources within and around the refuge areas fosters a spirit of stewardship in the community while strengthening the values of our staff as members of the community,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Ivan Vicente said in a written statement.

The project, which comes in just under $4 million, is expected to be completed this summer. Funding is being provided by the USFWS, state DOT and Federal Highways Administration.

The viewpoint is a 5.4-acre parcel that includes two viewpoints with views of the greater Hanalei Valley and Bay, Hanalei NWR and the Halele‘a Forest Reserve.

The site will accommodate more people than the existing lookout, with parking for 25 cars, short-term parking for up to three buses, perimeter fencing and entry gate, vault toilets and seating. There will also be space for refuge staff or volunteers to provide outreach and information.

The USFWS provided a list of suggested native species for planting based on native plants currently there or known to be there, and recommended in a habitat-management plan for that zone. For this area, due to the proximity of vehicles and people, plants that are food sources for the native wildlife were not recommended.

The project has been a long time coming, as it was first proposed in 2003 because the existing Hanalei viewpoint is insufficient, with inadequate parking, uncontrolled vehicular access and a viewing area too close to the highway.

The new viewpoint will be considerably larger and take into account vehicular projections for the next 20 years. It was designed to accommodate vehicle traffic of up to 1,000 vehicles a day.

According to state DOT Communications Manager Shelly Kunishige, the new viewpoint will improve safety on Kuhio Highway through the addition of acceleration and deceleration lanes to allow those accessing the viewpoint to exit and enter the highway safely and efficiently.

An environmental assessment was conducted to evaluate the potential effects of the project and gather public input. The EA reported that only minor effects to wildlife habitat and use are anticipated. The species that were present at the site before construction began were mostly invasive and non-native, and would not be adversely affected in terms of local or regional abundance, the EA concluded.

During the EA process, USFWS also met with partners and interested parties including elected officials, the County of Kaua‘i and Hanalei taro farmers, to gather information and assess impact.

For more information on the project, and to view the EA and the finding of no significant impact as a result of the project, see fws.gov/nwrs/threecolumn.aspx?id=6442459022.

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Laurel Smith, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0424 or lsmith@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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