Glynnis Nakai, the longtime manager for the Kealia Pond and the Kakahai'a national wildlife refuges on Maui and Molokai, has transferred to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Olympia, Wash., according to Dave Ellis of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Nakai applied for the Washington refuge manager job and was selected for the position, Ellis said. She began her new job July 29.
"It's a promotion for her," he said, adding that Nisqually is a "really nice wildlife refuge."
Glynnis Nakai (center), the former Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge manager, uncovers a turtle nest next to state aquatic biologist Skippy Hau and Hawksbill Recovery Project Coordinator Cheryl King in this photo taken in December 2011. Nakai has transferred to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Washington state.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The refuge sits on the Nisqually River Delta on the southern end of Puget Sound, where the fresh river water combines with the saltwater of the sound, according to the refuge website. While most major estuaries in the state were filled, dredged or developed, the Nisqually River estuary was set aside for wildlife. The refuge holds fish, including the endangered coho salmon; birds, including the endangered peregrine falcon; and other mammals and reptiles.
Her Maui position is not being filled immediately. Ellis, who is on Oahu, serves as refuge manager for Oahu's three refuges (James Campbell, Oahu Forest and Pearl Harbor) and now the two in Maui County, he said.
Also, there's a vacancy for an administrative assistant for the Oahu and Maui refuges, Ellis said. While that vacancy should be filled soon, the job is expected to be combined into one position with responsibilities for the Oahu and Maui sites, he added.
Ellis said he flies back and forth between Oahu and Maui and acknowledged that he's spread thinly covering both areas.
"We are experiencing challenges with both budget and staff," he said. "I don't know how long it will be in place."
When asked how he manages to cover Oahu and Maui refuges, he said, "I do them to the best of my ability."
Ellis noted that the Fish & Wildlife Service is a federal agency subject to the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts known as the "sequester."
Nakai was the Kealia refuge manager from at least 2004, according to The Maui News archives.
She oversaw the Fish & Wildlife Service's project to build a 2,000-foot boardwalk at Kealia Pond with kiosks and interpretive displays. The $2.2 million project was beset with problems and delays.
The boardwalk finally opened in September 2009 after 15 years of planning and intermittent construction.
At one point, the boardwalk needed to be rebuilt because an earlier contractor used nails to assemble recycled plastic boards, which bowed in the heat and needed to be replaced.
The project also needed to be redesigned twice - once to accommodate a change in location and a second time because of flooding.
Later, Nakai was in charge as the service constructed a new $4.9 million headquarters and visitor center. That project went far more smoothly, officially opening in February 2012.
The 7,200-square-foot facility replaced a 672-square-foot trailer that staff had used as headquarters. The energy-efficient headquarters and visitor center includes a 1,358-square-foot lobby and exhibit hall, a 1,043-square-foot multipurpose room, eight offices, a conference room and other workrooms.
Access to the facility is off Milepost 6 on Mokulele Highway.