It was created by the filling of the reef flats during incremental dredging of Honolulu harbor and Ke‘ehi lagoon. The village of Kou, inland of it, had a long history of settlement.
It originally consisted of marginal sandy lands on an elevated coral reef platform named Kahololoa. This reef was cut by stream channels on the west and east which were later developed into the Kalihi channel and the Honolulu harbor channel on the east.
In the 1840s, there were several islands or dryland areas on the off shore reef flats. In late-1868 a visiting ship unloaded passengers who were exposed to smallpox on Kahololoa reef.
A few months later, in early 1869, a small island on the reef, Kamoku‘akulikuli, was leased by Kamehameha III’s government and used as a quarantine station. By 1888 the island which had been enlarged was known as Quarantine Island.
In 1902 title to Quarantine Island was transferred to the US after the establishment of a marine hospital by the US Public Health Service. Over the next few years dredged materials from improvements to Honolulu harbor had enlarged the island again and by 1906 the island was encircled by a seawall.
In 1916, Sand Island Military Reservation was established on the reclaimed land of the quarantine station. Subsequent episodes of harbor improvements resulted in enlarging the island and, by 1925 the reef around Sand Island had been removed and the island was completely surrounded by water.
During the early 1940s, Sand Island became the headquarters of the Army Port and Service Command and in the early 1940s the island was further enlarged with fill materials from the dredging of the seaplane runway.
It is approximately 520 acres in area and shelters Honolulu Harbor from the open ocean. It is connected to the island of O’ahu by a bascule bridge at the western end of the island. (DLNR)
In 1959, by Executive Order 10833, the Department of the Army transferred the Island to the Territory of Hawaii. In 1963 ownership was transferred to the State of Hawaii (Star Bulletin, March 12, 1991). (Dye)
For a time it was called Anuenue Island. That changed in 1969 when a proclamation by memorandum of the Governor declared the Island shall be named Sand Island and that name is shall be used on all official state maps, documents and correspondence. (§6E-36)
One of the few lasting legacies of the Island’s former name is Anuenue Fisheries Research Center (AFRC,) a base yard, hatchery and culture center for DLNR’s Division of Aquatic Resources – it’s still operating on the Island.
The AFRC is involved in all aspects of our fisheries and aquaculture programs. Activity there involves the production of channel catfish and rainbow trout for stocking of public fishing areas at Nuʻuanu (Oʻahu) and Kokeʻe (Kauai.) Moi is also raised there and released at Waikīkī and elsewhere.
The physical facilities include: (1) an office complex; (2) a 7,000 square feet complex that houses a biological-chemical laboratory, freshwater fish hatchery, workshop and storage areas for fisheries survey gear, equipment and boats; (3) a 19,000 square feet thermos-controlled hatchery building; (4) the Chief Biologist’s residence; and (5) quarantine facility for aquatic animal disease studies. (DLNR)
Most recently, the Anuenue Fisheries facility serves to help battle the invasive seaweeds at Kāneʻohe Bay. Seaweed is threatening to smother coral patch reefs in the area; sea urchins eat seaweed.
AFRC reared 250,000-sea urchins that have been placed on selected reefs in the Bay. As a result of the urchins, “we are seeing a reduction of invasive alien seaweeds in the targeted areas.” (DLNR; KITV)
Alien invasive seaweed has plagued Kaneohe Bay for more than 30 years. While I was at DLNR, in 2005 DLNR, The Nature Conservancy and the University of Hawaiʻi developed a two-tier approach to the problem.
First they removed the algae, typically using the ‘Super Sucker’ (a mobile vacuum system that removes algae using suction generated from a pump system housed on a pontoon barge. Divers gently remove the invasive algae from reefs and feed it into a long hose attached to the pump.)
The pump sucks the algae back to the barge and onto a sorting table where it is bagged. Bags of algae are delivered to local farmers who use the nutrient rich algae as fertilizer on crops such as taro and sweet potatoes. Smothering Seaweed is high in potassium and is believed to repel insects from crops. (Super Sucker)
The Super Sucker has been working in the Bay since 2006. The pump system can remove hundreds of pounds of algae an hour, and in 2010 removed over 98,000 pounds of invasive algae.
Then, native sea urchins are placed on the cleared reef patches to eat and keep down the remaining seaweed as a biocontrol of invasive algae.
“These native, herbivorous urchins maintain the areas like ocean gardeners or little goats of the sea. They keep the seaweed in check and give the corals a chance to recover.” (David Cohen, DLNR; KITV)
Oh, some of the other names for what is now called Sand Island? … Anuenue; Akulikuli; Kahakaʻaulana; Kahololoa; Kamokuʻākulikuli ; Mauliola; Moku Akulikuli; Quarantine Island and Rainbow Island.