- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - An effort by the state and advocates seeks to untangle the complex government process for projects to restore cultural Hawaiian fishponds.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources has scheduled February hearings in Maui County for public input on a proposal to create a statewide general permit for restoration, maintenance and operation of traditional fishponds, the Maui News (https://is.gd/dTeYrf) reported Thursday. Other hearings also are scheduled for Kauai, Oahu and the Big Island.

Also involved in the effort is the Hui Malama Loko l’a, a group of fishpond practitioners.

Fishpond-restoration projects have been required to comply with as many as 17 regulations and to obtain permits from various federal and state agencies, according to the Hui’s statewide coordinator, Brenda Asuncion.

The current permitting process is a main hindrance for projects undertaken as a “labor of love,” Asuncion said. These restoration groups don’t have the expertise to obtain government permits or thousands of dollars to hire consultants to do that work.

The natural resources office said the goal is to provide practitioners with a single application and permit. Those would be processed by the department’s Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, which would encompass five potential permits currently required.

Department of Land and Natural Resources officials said the proposed program has been designed to comply with distinct federal and state regulations.

Asuncion said a similar effort to streamline the process was launched in the 1990s, but was unsuccessful. She said there is real collaboration now between federal and state agencies regulating ocean activities to clear the way for the restoration and preservation of fishponds.

Ideally, those wanting to work on such projects will not need to hire consultants, Asuncion said. She added that currently approving agencies don’t have deadlines to respond to, so it can take a long time for them to process permit requests.

Department of Land and Natural Resources officials said applicants under the proposed system would be asked to discuss such topics as the history of ponds, proposed work and water-quality monitoring plans.

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Information from: The Maui News, https://www.mauinews.com

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