USDA Press Release No. 0176.10; Contact: Office of Communications (202) 720-4623 Partnership Project Protects Life, Property and Coral Reefs HONOLULU, April 7, 2010 - Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today hosted an open discussion today with conservation partners and citizens of Lahaina, Maui, on a site visit to the Lahaina Watershed Project. When complete, the project will protect coral reefs, improve water quality, and prevent flooding. "We have a responsibility to protect citizens of this watershed, their property and the natural and cultural resources of this beautiful island, and the Lahaina Watershed Project is key to making this happen," Merrigan said. Funded by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the project will be implemented in as many as six phases and reduce the total amount of sediment entering the ocean by nearly 25 percent. Sediment discharge to fringing reef area by Lahaina Town will be nearly eliminated. Among the many environmental benefits, this reduction will allow coral reefs and other marine resources to better adapt to climate change and protect the habitat of the federally threatened Hawaiian green sea turtle. In addition, the project will protect approximately 235 residences, 160 commercial buildings and four public facilities from flooding. NRCS and the State Historic Preservation Department are monitoring cultural resources found during construction. "NRCS is glad for the opportunity to help protect our near shore coral reef habitat and our rural communities with this watershed protection project," said Lawrence Yamamoto, NRCS Director of the Pacific Islands Area. Project partners include NRCS, the Federal Highway Administration, the State of Hawaii Department of Transportation, Maui County Department of Public Works, the West Maui Soil and Water Conservation District, and construction contractor Kiewit Pacific. For more information, visit www.pia.nrcs.usda.gov. For information about other NRCS conservation programs online, visit: www.nrcs.usda.gov. 2010 represents the 75th year of NRCS helping people help the land. Since its inception in 1935, the NRCS conservation delivery system has advanced a unique partnership with state and local governments and private landowners delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests.