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Hawaii firm ordered to restore wetlands

Release Date: 03/16/2006
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711, higuchi.dean@epa.gov

(03/16/06) HONOLULU – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered D & J Ocean Farm, Inc. to restore sensitive wetlands at Kalaeloa on Molokai that were illegally filled.

The order requires the company to remove soil and other fill on the property created while cutting a new channel for Keawanui Stream. The affected wetlands will be revegetated with native akulikuli-kai plants.

“This order will benefit the Kalaeloa wetlands on Molokai by restoring an area that provides habitat for water birds, including the endangered Hawaiian stilt,” said Alexis Strauss, the EPA’s director for water programs in the Pacific Southwest region. “When working in wetland areas, it's vital to consult with the US Army Corps of Engineers and obtain needed permits well in advance of excavating or filling activities.”

Between January 2002 and early 2003 the company filled about a quarter acre of wetlands while cutting the new stream channel to prevent flooding at the shrimp farm. Soil excavated from this process was placed alongside the channel in the wetland. Inspectors also found that in 2001, 0.6 acres of wetlands were filled at an adjacent location on the property to build a nursery structure. Both wetland fill activities require Clean Water Act permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In September 2004, the Army Corps notified D & J that the fill violated the Clean Water Act and instructed the company to remove the fill. The Natural Resources Conservation Service had also previously notified D & J that some of the fill activities violated the “Swampbuster” provisions of the Farm Bill in January 2004. The case was referred to the EPA in 2005 after D & J failed to comply with the removal orders.

D & J Ocean Farms is an aquaculture facility that produces shrimp, ogo and tilapia. Under the EPA’s order, the company will need to submit plans to remove the fill material and to restore the wetland. D & J will also have to submit progress reports to the EPA on the fill removal and restoration work.

The wetlands at Kalaeloa on Molokai provide wildlife habitat and protect Molokai’s coastal water quality by filtering pollutants from runoff. When wetlands are filled in, these important ecological functions are lost. Any discharges of dredged or fill material within wetlands or streams, including creation or realignment of drainage ditches in wetland areas, requires a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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