NERRS Site Proposal Process
As part of the NERRS site selection process, a public meeting will be held in the vicinity of the proposed site. Originally scheduled for the first week in November 2013, this meeting has been postponed due to the federal government shutdown. The meeting is anticipated to take place during the first week in January 2014. The site nomination document is currently being drafted and will be submitted, with any comments received during the public meeting, to NOAA in early 2014.
At their meeting on August 27, 2013 the Site Selection Committee reviewed all materials submitted by both site proposers, including their proposals and supplementary documents. Committee members also listened to the site proposers’ presentations on their sites, which highlighted site strengths and addressed any comments the Site Evaluation Committee had developed during their initial evaluation of the site proposals.
After hearing the presentations and receiving responses to questions raised, the Committee members discussed their thoughts on the process and sites proposed. Committee members scored the site proposals in relation to the site selection criteria, and the Office of Planning compiled these scores to come up with a final score.
The preferred site for nomination to become a NERR in the State of Hawai‘i is He‘eia Estuary in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu.
The Office of Planning would like to thank both site proposers for their efforts and commends them for supplying the Site Selection Committee with extensive information to consider during their deliberation. At this time a single site is sought; however, future designations of additional NERR sites in the state are possible. We hope that the Hilo Bay site will continue their engagement with the community and stakeholders to achieve their goals.
A visit from NOAA representatives took place the first week of September. They met with both site proposers to answer any questions they may have about becoming a NERR and their roles and responsibilities. This information will be useful for both He’eia Estuary, the preferred site, as well as Hilo Bay, which may be considered in the future as a NERR. A public meeting will be planned in the vicinity of the preferred site, in order to obtain public input and answer questions about what it means to have a NERR designated in the area. The Governor will formally nominate the preferred site to NOAA at the end of 2013.
After extending the deadline for site proposal submittals from May 15 to June 13, the Office of Planning received a total of two site proposals for consideration for the NERRS site selection process. These proposals were reviewed by the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC), a committee comprised of members from state agencies, the public and subject matter experts in the field of estuarine research.
The two proposals submitted include He`eia Estuary on the island of O`ahu and Hilo Bay on the Big Island of Hawai`i. Both sites meet the minimum qualifications, and the site which is chosen will be a valuable addition to the NERRS national network.
Questions on the Hilo Bay proposal can be directed to the working group members: Tracy Wiegner (UH-Hilo) email@example.com, Roxane Stewart(Edith Kanakaole Foundation) firstname.lastname@example.org, Cheyenne Perry (Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance) email@example.com, Kalewa Correa (Mokupapapa Discovery Center) firstname.lastname@example.org, Troy Sakihara (Division of Aquatic Resources) email@example.com, Luka Mossman (Conservation International) firstname.lastname@example.org, and Lahela Camara (Three Mountain Alliance Watershed Partnership (TMA)) email@example.com.
The criteria against which the sites are being evaluated can be found at the right, under “Site Selection Criteria.” The process moving forward is outlined in the image at the right, titled “Tasks and Next Steps.” Following the Site Evaluation Committee’s review and recommendation of a short list of sites, the Site Selection Committee (SSC) will select one preferred site for nomination by the Governor to NOAA.
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) is a network of 28 areas representing different biographic regions of the United States that have been established for long-term research, water quality monitoring, education and coastal stewardship. There is currently not a NERR site in Hawaii. The Governor has initiated the process of establishing a NERR site in Hawaii. The Coastal Zone Management Program, Office of Planning is conducting a site selection and evaluation process to select a site.
Once a recommended site has been identified, a publicly noticed meeting will be held in the vicinity of the site. The Governor will submit a nomination document to NOAA for approval. If NOAA approves the nomination document, an Environmental Impact Statement and Management Plan will be developed. Upon approval of a final management plan and memorandum of understanding, NOAA may designate the site as a NERR site. Each research reserve is made up of a core area and a buffer area. The core area around the estuary is managed for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education and coastal stewardship. The reserves are run by the state with input from local partners. The goal of the reserve system is to support local knowledge and management decisions pertaining to the coastal resources of the region.
Public participation is encouraged throughout the process. This includes participation in submitting proposals for sites to be considered and developing the management plan. Once the reserve is established, the public may visit the research reserve for educational purposes, and help to advise the state with managing the research reserve.
For more information on the NERRS program, please see http://www.nerrs.noaa.gov/