NOAA designates Heeia National Estuarine Research Reserve

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Marcie Grabowski, (808) 956-3151
Outreach specialist, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
Ruth Gates, (808) 236-7401
Director, HIMB, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology
Posted: Jan 20, 2017

Manuel Mejia, The Nature Conservancy
Manuel Mejia, The Nature Conservancy

NOAA has announced a new National Estuarine Research Reserve, the 29th in the system, and the first in more than six years. Estuarine reserves protect a section of an estuary and provide a living laboratory to explore and understand the important areas where rivers meet the sea. The reserve will be managed in partnership with the State of Hawai‘i through the University of Hawaii’s Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB).

The 1,385-acre He‘eia National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses upland forests and grasslands, wetlands, reefs and seagrass beds, as well as the largest sheltered body of water in the Hawaiian Island chain. It is located within the Kāne‘ohe Bay estuary on the windward side of O‘ahu and includes significant historic and cultural resources.

Education and community involvement are an important part of each reserve, and the system as a whole is an integral part NOAA’s efforts to improve the resilience of coastal communities and economies. Estuaries themselves provide many community benefits, including flood protection, water filtration, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreation opportunities.

“It’s our partnerships that make the reserve system successful; we can tap into the strength of the broader reserve system and find innovative solutions to local, coastal challenges,” said W. Russell Callender, assistant NOAA administrator for the National Ocean Service. “By working closely with HIMB and the state, and bringing scientists, community leaders, educators and the public together, we can preserve some of Hawaii’s significant cultural and natural resources for future generations.”

HIMB will operate the reserve, while NOAA provides national programmatic leadership, guidance and funding. “We are excited about this partnership and the scientific research and practical management opportunities it provides,” said Ruth Gates, PhD, HIMB director. “The reserve will benefit our researchers, students, and the community as a whole.”

The reserve’s management plan, developed with state and local partners as part of the designation process, provides direction for research, education, stewardship and cultural activities for the next five years. 

Funds are provided under the Coastal Zone Management Act and it is anticipated that the Hawai’i reserve will be eligible for fiscal year 2017 funding to begin operations.

A public ceremony to commemorate the opening of the reserve is anticipated in the spring of 2017. The He’eia National Estuarine Research Reserve’s management plan is available online, as well as more information about the reserve. A formal notice of the designation will be posted in the federal register.

Text of this release courtesy of NOAA.