The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered a Kauai landowner to restore sensitive wetlands adjacent to the Hanalei River he had illegally filled in 2002 and 2003.
The order also requires Ed Ben-Dor of Hanalei, Kauai to not discharge any additional dredged or fill material into wetlands and other waters without a permit.
The EPA order cites violations of the Clean Water Act for the unauthorized dredging and filling of a wetland in the flood plain of the Hanalei River below Princeville.
"Hawai'i's wetlands deserve protection because they are habitat for endangered Hawaiian waterbirds, provide flood water storage, and help protect water quality," said Alexis Strauss, the EPA's director for water programs in the Pacific Southwest region. "The Hanalei Valley is an important wetlands resource in Hawai'i. It is the largest taro farming area in the state and is the home of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service national wildlife refuge."
From October to February 2003, Ben-Dor had contractors excavate a pond and ditch in the wetland area, which caused the discharge of dredged materials into the waters; and bury portions of the remaining wetlands with dredged soils and plants and imported materials.
The order also requires Ben-Dor to choose a contractor for the EPA's approval by July 6. Once the contractor is approved, Ben-Dor must submit to the EPA within 45 days a removal and restoration plan that includes steps to remove all unauthorized wetland fill and restore the disturbed area into a functional wetland habitat, with a maintenance program to preserve the wetland. Work will include replanting the wetland with native plant species to be recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Wetland areas provide habitat for endangered wildlife and are valuable in cleaning the water that recharges groundwater supplies and reduces flood risks. Any dredge and fill work, creation or realignment of any ditch or stream in a wetland area or open water requires a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.