Wetland Restoration Approved Despite Contention

It started simply enough: transform an overgrown wetland into a habitat for endangered water birds. But after three years of seeking approval from federal, state and county officials – and enduring objections from the community over his plans – Kip Dunbar is anxious to begin work.

Dunbar plans to restore about an acre of deteriorated wetland on the east end, skimming the water’s surface down 18 inches to remove invasive vegetation and building a fence around the perimeter to keep out predators.

“Slowly but surely this wetland has narrowed and narrowed,” Dunbar said. “Once you take the vegetation out of there and it stops transpiring all the water, it’ll be a wetland again.”

Last week, Dunbar received permission from the Molokai Planning Commission (MoPC) to begin work, the last in a series of regulatory hurtles. The project has already been signed off on by the Army Corp of Engineers, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the state Historic Preservation Committee.

Arleone Dibben-Young, a local water bird researcher, created a similar wetland on her property near Kawela 10 years ago, which is now home to Bristle-thighed curlews and endangered Hawaiian Stilts and Coots. Dibben-Young testified to MoPC in support of Dunbar’s project.