[Federal Register Volume 76, Number 161 (Friday, August 19, 2011)]
[Pages 52008-52011]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2011-21326]



Fish and Wildlife Service

[FWS-R1-R-2011-N093; 1265-0000-10137-S3]

Ke[amacr]lia Pond National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and Kakahai'a 
NWR, Maui County, HI; Draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and 
Environmental Assessment

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of availability; request for comments.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the 
availability of our draft comprehensive conservation plans and 
environmental assessments (Draft CCPs/EAs) for the Ke[amacr]lia Pond 
and Kakahai'a National Wildlife Refuges (Refuges), for public review 
and comment. The Draft CCPs/EAs describe our proposals for managing the 
Refuges for the next 15 years.

DATES: To ensure consideration, we must receive your written comments 
by September 19, 2011. We will also announce opportunities for public 
input in local news media throughout the CCP process.

ADDRESSES: Additional information about the Refuges is available on our 
Web sites http://www.fws.gov/kealiapond/and http://www.fws.gov/kakahaia/. You may submit comments or request CD-ROM copies of the 
Draft CCPs/EAs by any of the following methods. A limited number of 
printed copies of the Draft CCPs/EAs are also available.
    E-mail: FW1PlanningComments@fws.gov. Include ``Ke[amacr]lia Pond/
Kakahai'a NWRs'' in the subject line of the message.
    Fax: Attn: Glynnis Nakai, Project Leader, (808) 875-2945.
    U.S. Mail: Glynnis Nakai, Project Leader, Maui National Wildlife 
Refuge Complex, P.O. Box 1042, K[imacr]hei, Hawai'i 96753.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Glynnis Nakai, Project Leader, (808) 
875-1582 (phone).



    With this notice, we continue the CCP process for the Refuges. We 
started this process through a notice in the Federal Register (74 FR 
53755; October 20, 2009).
    The Ke[amacr]lia Pond and Kakahai'a Refuges are part of the Maui 
National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Ke[amacr]lia Pond Refuge is located 
along the southern shore of the island of Maui. It was established in 
1992 for the purpose of providing habitat for endangered Hawaiian 
waterbirds, specifically, the endangered Hawaiian stilt (ae'o), and 
endangered Hawaiian coot ('alae ke'oke'o). Ke[amacr]lia Pond is one of 
the largest natural wetlands remaining in the Hawaiian Islands. The 
704-acre Ke[amacr]lia Pond Refuge is administered under a perpetual 
conservation easement provided by Alexander and Baldwin, Inc. The 
Refuge encompasses open water, fresh to brackish water marsh, mudflat, 
grassland, upland shrub, and coastal beach strand habitats.

[[Page 52009]]

The Refuge also contains one of the largest concentrations of wetland 
birds in Hawai'i, and is an important breeding, feeding, and resting 
area for the ae'o and 'alae ke'oke'o. In addition, Ke[amacr]lia Pond 
Refuge provides a strategic landfall for migratory birds coming from 
Alaska, Siberia, and Asia, including Northern pintail (koloa 
m[amacr]pu), Northern shoveler (koloa moh[amacr]), lesser scaup, 
Pacific golden-plover (k[omacr]lea), and ruddy turnstone (`akekeke). A 
total of 110 bird species have been documented on Ke[amacr]lia Pond 
Refuge. A majority of the Refuge is closed to general public access; 
however, trails, overlooks, and educational programs provide the public 
with opportunities to view some of Hawai'i's endangered and migratory 
    The Kakahai'a Refuge is located on the southeastern coast of the 
island of Moloka'i. It was established to protect and provide habitat 
for endangered species. Habitats found on this Refuge include open 
water, freshwater marsh, mudflat, grassland, and shrubland. An inland 
Hawaiian fishpond is also located on the Refuge. Some of the more 
common migrants are koloa m[amacr]pu and k[omacr]lea. Kakahai'a Refuge 
is closed to the general public; however, volunteers occasionally 
conduct wetland education programs.


The CCP Process

    The National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 (16 
U.S.C. 668dd-668ee) (Refuge Administration Act), as amended by the 
National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, requires us to 
develop a CCP for each national wildlife refuge. The purpose for 
developing a CCP is to provide refuge managers with a 15-year plan for 
achieving refuge purposes and contributing toward the mission of the 
National Wildlife Refuge System, consistent with sound principles of 
fish and wildlife management, conservation, legal mandates, and our 
policies. In addition to outlining broad management direction on 
conserving wildlife and their habitats, CCPs identify wildlife-
dependent recreational opportunities that are compatible with a 
refuge's purposes, including opportunities for hunting, fishing, 
wildlife observation and photography, and environmental education and 
interpretation. We will review and update the CCP at least every 15 
years in accordance with the Refuge Administration Act.

Public Outreach and CCP Issues

    We started the public scoping phase of the CCP planning process in 
2009 by publishing a Notice of Intent (NOI) in the Federal Register (74 
FR 53755; October 20, 2009), announcing our intention to complete a 
CCP/EA for the Ke[amacr]lia Pond and Kakahai'a Refuges, and requesting 
public comments. Concurrently, we released Planning Update 1, to 
provide information to the public and various stakeholders regarding 
our planning process, the Refuges' purposes, and our preliminary 
issues, goals, and objectives. We also invited the public to two open 
house meetings and requested public comments in the NOI and Planning 
Update 1. In November 2009, we held two public open house meetings in 
K[imacr]hei and Kaunakakai, HI.
    In Planning Update 2, released in February 2010, we summarized the 
comments we received, listed the preliminary management issues we used 
to draft alternatives, and presented our refined goals and objectives. 
In March 2011, we released Planning Update 3. We described our 
preliminary alternatives and identified our preferred alternatives in 
the update, and requested comments. We identified the following key 
issues during our planning and public involvement process, and 
addressed them in the Draft CCPs/EAs.
     Reduce threats to native habitats, endangered species, 
migratory birds, and other native wildlife at Ke[amacr]lia Pond Refuge, 
from invasive California bulrush and pickleweed plants; and nonnative 
rats, Indian mongooses, and cats. Identify more efficient techniques to 
control the most aggressive invasive species.
     Reduce midge swarms, wind-blown dust, and foul-smelling 
tilapia die-offs that originate on Ke[amacr]lia Pond Refuge, and 
encroach on neighboring property.
     Expand opportunities for wildlife-dependent public uses on 
Ke[amacr]lia Pond Refuge, and manage public uses to prevent wildlife 
and habitat disturbances.
     Develop restoration plans and step-down habitat management 
plans, and identify alternative water sources for endangered waterbird 
habitat on both Refuges.
     Increase funding for and maintenance of equipment and 
facilities that are exposed to and degraded by the Refuges' coastal 
marine environmental conditions.
     Increase law enforcement to protect both Refuges' 
     Conduct baseline surveys of invertebrates and their 
associated vegetation, to facilitate adaptive management at both 
     Increase staff presence on the Kakahai'a Refuge, to 
improve habitat management, volunteer efforts, and visitor services.

Draft CCP Alternatives We Are Considering

    During the public scoping process with which we started work on 
these Draft CCPs/EAs, we, other governmental partners, and the public 
raised several issues. To address these issues we developed and 
evaluated three alternatives for managing each Refuge. In each Draft 
CCP/EA, we present our evaluation of the environmental effects of each 
alternative, and identify Alternative C as our preferred alternative. 
Alternative C was selected in both documents, because it best achieves 
the Refuges' purposes, visions, and goals; contributes to the National 
Wildlife Refuge System mission; addresses issues and relevant mandates; 
and is consistent with principles of sound fish and wildlife 
management. Summaries of our alternatives follow.

Ke[amacr]lia Pond Refuge Draft CCP/EA Alternatives

Alternative A: No Change

    Under Alternative A, we would continue current management. 
Management of threatened and endangered species would focus on 
waterbird protection and successful nesting, in support of Hawaiian 
Waterbird Recovery Plan implementation. Public use programs would 
remain virtually unchanged. We would rely on natural, annual flooding, 
to manage habitat, and supplemental flooding, to provide habitat for 
waterbirds. The open-water, 200-acre Ke[amacr]lia Pond is subject to 
the natural hydrological cycle, represented by high water in winter, 
receding water April to September, and complete drying October to 
November. The seasonal mudflats at M[amacr]'alaea would not be actively 
    The Refuge's proposed Molokini Islet Unit (a proposed overlay 
refuge) would continue to be managed as a seabird colony. We would 
visit the unit one or two times per year, to monitor the seabird 
population, and continue a collaborative, long-term bird-banding 
project with the Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources 
    There are three nuisance issues at Ke[amacr]lia Pond that impact 
downwind neighbors, they include: Nonnative insects (midges), dust, and 
fish die-off odor. In extended high-water years, an invasive midge 
species reproduces multiple times, and the resulting swarms encroach on 
adjacent property. The Refuge would continue to control midges by 
treating the main pond with

[[Page 52010]]

an insect growth inhibitor during peak abundance.
    An overabundance of tilapia, a nonnative fish, occurs during 
extended flood conditions in the main pond. When the water recedes, the 
tilapia die-off emanates a foul odor, and the decaying fish must be 
raked out of the mud to remove the biomass. The Refuge would continue 
to trap and remove tilapia from the pond under Alternative A.
    When water in the main pond recedes due to evaporation, trade winds 
disperse dust from the pond to the south-southeast side of the Refuge, 
and onto neighboring properties. Under Alternative A, we would continue 
to control windblown sediment by pumping and sheetflowing water into 
the main pond, targeting the pond's upper north edge.

Alternative B: Restoration Focus

    Under Alternative B, we would identify and implement more efficient 
techniques for controlling the most aggressive invasive species, 
prepare a restoration plan and step-down habitat management plan with 
an inventory and monitoring protocol, and identify alternative water 
sources for endangered waterbirds. Developing a water source for 
M[amacr]'alaea Flats would be a priority, enabling managing water 
levels for foraging, resting, and breeding ae'o, and providing enhanced 
wildlife viewing opportunities from the Ke[amacr]lia Coastal Boardwalk. 
We would conduct additional studies to evaluate the impacts visitors 
have on endangered waterbirds. Monitoring on the proposed Molokini 
Islet Unit would increase to two or three visits per year, for 
monitoring breeding and banding chicks. Methods to control nuisances 
(midges, dust, and tilapia) would be similar to Alternative A, until 
the Refuge is able to manipulate water levels in the open-water pond.

Alternative C: Wetland Capacity Focus (Preferred Alternative)

    Under Alternative C, we would increase our ability to control water 
in the main pond and adjacent vegetated mudflats, remove the most 
aggressive invasive plants, and control pickleweed on the flats. Refuge 
enhancements would include constructing a water control structure, 
developing new wells to deliver water to target areas, and recontouring 
the topography, to maintain water on the flats. Increasing our 
capability to dewater and flood the main pond, would enhance our midge 
and tilapia control efforts.
    Public uses would be similar to Alternatives A and B; however, new 
vegetated barriers and/or blinds would be provided for better wildlife 
viewing opportunities. Additional visitor services staff would recruit 
and train volunteers to assist with Refuge programs, and increase 
environmental educational opportunities.
    Monitoring on the proposed Molokini Islet Unit would include three 
to six visits annually, during seabird nesting season (March to 
November). Very little information is known about 'ou (Bulwer's 
petrels) nesting on Molokini Islet; therefore, we would begin a 
monitoring program to determine the population's parameters. In 
addition, we would initiate a native plant restoration plan, 
particularly for 'ihi (Portulaca molokiniensis), a Federal and State 
species of concern. Volunteers would assist with propagating plants in 
the Refuge's greenhouse, and outplanting would be conducted by Federal 
and State biologists under a cooperative agreement with HDLNR.

Kakahai'a Refuge Draft CCP/EA Alternatives

Alternative A: Continue Current Management (No Change)

    Under Alternative A, no changes in current management would occur. 
Wetland management would continue to be limited, due to staff and 
funding limitations. An overgrowth of pest plants, including trees and 
shrubs on levees, would continue to hinder efforts to manage the 
habitat on a small scale. Sedimentation would continue to degrade 
wetland habitat, resulting in even fewer waterbirds using the habitat; 
therefore we would not restart predator control activities. Management 
at Kakahai'a Refuge would be limited to treating pest plant species 
along the fence line with herbicide, maintaining access to gages and 
piezometers, monitoring water levels, and replacing the perimeter 
fence, as funding permits. The Refuge would remain closed to visitors.

Alternative B: Restoration and Biodiversity Focus

    Under Alternative B, we would restore 10.5 acres of wetland habitat 
at Kakahai'a Refuge. We would create a water source for 5.5 acres of 
the Refuge's New Pond, by constructing a well, installing a water pump 
and distribution line, and repairing the electric panel. This 
alternative would create foraging and resting habitat for ae'o and 
'alae ke'oke'o, and potential nesting habitat for ae'o. Removing 5 
acres of invasive vegetation would recreate open water habitat in Old 
Pond. If feasible, the Old Pond's topography would be recontoured in 
areas where California bulrush has been removed, to create foraging and 
nesting habitat for 'alae ke'oke'o. Water level management in both 
ponds would also enhance invertebrate abundance. We would resume 
waterbird monitoring and predator control. The perimeter fence would be 
repaired or replaced to minimize the occurrence of invasive mammals 
such as axis deer, pigs, and dogs.
    Under Alternative B, we would compile available data on the ecology 
of the wetlands, and evaluate wetland geomorphology and hydrology, to 
restore wetland habitat for the ae'o and 'alae ke'oke'o. The Refuge 
would remain closed to the public, except for issuing Special Use 
Permits for environmental education and interpretation activities. We 
would develop an earthen platform outside the fence along the entrance 
road to the Refuge, for wildlife viewing opportunities. Refuge staff 
visits would coincide with volunteer work group activities.

Alternative C: Wetland Capacity Focus (Preferred Alternative)

    Under Alternative C, we would restore the 15-acre Old Pond, and 5.5 
acres of the New Pond. Old Pond restoration activities would include 
removing California bulrush and other aggressive nonnative species, 
dredging accumulated sediment, recontouring the pond's bathymetry, 
removing and reconfiguring radial levees, reconstructing perimeter 
levees, replacing the water control structure, and replacing the pump 
between the two ponds. Restoring Old Pond would provide open water and 
emergent habitat for breeding, foraging, and nesting 'alae ke'oke'o. 
Natural groundwater springs would also supply water to Old Pond, which 
would reduce the need for supplemental water. A well, pump, water 
distribution line, and water control outlet would be constructed for 
New Pond, and levees would be rebuilt, which would enable us to flood 
and dewater the ponds to provide semi-permanent and seasonal habitat 
for ae'o, 'alae ke'oke'o, and migratory waterbirds. All monitoring 
activities would resume as part of the wetland restoration. A predator-
proof fence would be installed, to protect wetland habitat and species.
    We would work with the Hawai'i Department of Transportation, to 
modify the culvert passing under Kamehameha V Highway, to allow water 
from the upper watershed and periodic dewatering of the wetlands to 
flow to the ocean naturally, without blockage from sand.

[[Page 52011]]

    Maintaining the wetlands at Kakahai'a Refuge would require regular 
onsite Refuge staff presence. The opportunities for visitors to engage 
in compatible wildlife-dependent recreation would expand, depending on 
staffing. At a minimum, a kiosk would be constructed on an earthen 
mound along the Refuge entrance road. Volunteer groups would assist 
Refuge staff with restoration and maintenance activities.

Public Availability of Documents

    We encourage you to stay involved in the CCP planning process by 
reviewing and commenting on the proposals we have developed in the 
Draft CCPs/EAs. Copies of the documents are available by request from 
the Maui National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Milepost 6, Mokulele 
Highway, K[imacr]hei, HI. The Draft CCPs/EAs are also available for 
downloading on our Web site http://www.fws.gov/pacific/planning.

Public Meetings

    We will hold the following public meetings. In Moloka'i, the 
meeting is September 7, 2011, 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Mitchell Pauole 
Center, 90 Ainoa Street, Kaunakakai, Hawai'i. In Maui, the meeting is 
September 8, 2011, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the K[imacr]hei Community 
Center, 303 E. Lipoa Street, K[imacr]hei, Hawai'i. For more information 
on the meetings, contact the person under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION 

Next Steps

    After the comment period ends, we will analyze the comments we 
receive and address them in the Final CCPs and decision documents.

Public Availability of Comments

    Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or 
other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be 
aware that your entire comment--including your personal identifying 
information--may be made publicly available at any time. While you can 
ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying 
information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be 
able to do so.

    Dated: June 21, 2011.
Robyn Thorson,
Regional Director, Region 1, Portland, Oregon.
[FR Doc. 2011-21326 Filed 8-18-11; 8:45 am]