Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Hearing Tuesday 8/27 on the Kahoolawe Rehabilitation Trust Fund and restoration plans

by Larry Geller

The Committee on Water and Land (Sen. Malama Solomon, Chair, Sen. Brickwood Galuteria, Vice Chair) has announced an informational briefing on Tuesday, August 27, 2013, at 10:30 a.m. in Room 229 at the State Capitol.

The purpose of this informational briefing is to receive an update from the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission on the concerns raised in the Audit of the Kahoolawe Rehabilitation Trust Fund regarding the trust fund itself and restoration plan.

No public testimony will be accepted.

The trust fund has a lot to explain. See related: Another state management failure: Kaho‘olawe Rehabilitation Trust Fund almost dried up with little to show for $51 million (7/11/2013).

As part of his 2010 article, Life of the Land: A Brief History (11/1/2010), Henry Curtis summarized the situation at Kahoolawe at that time:


The 45 square mile Kaho‘olawe was bombed from 1941-1990. In 1965 an atomic blast was simulated with massive amounts of TNT.

In 1969 protests ensued when a five-hundred-pound bomb was found over seven miles across the channel on Maui land leased to then Maui Mayor Elmer Carvalho. In 1971 Carvalho and the environmental group Life of the Land sued to stop the bombing and sought an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the navy's use of the island. The navy released a hastily prepared EIS in 1972, and the lawsuit was dismissed.

Kanaka Maoli Kahu Charles ("Uncle Charlie") Kauluwehi Maxwell, Sr. and others founded the Protect Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana (PKO) in 1974-75 and occupied the island in 1976 during America's Bicentennial.

The nine initial occupiers were Dr. Emmet Aluli, Kimo Aluli, George Helm, Ian Lind, Ellen Miles, Stephen Morse, Kawaipuna Prejan, Walter Ritte Jr., and Karla Villalba.

During efforts to reclaim the island, Kimo Mitchell and George Helm disappeared at sea off Kaho'olawe in 1977.

Archeological studies conducted by the navy in 1976-80 found 544 archaeological sites dating from 100 A.D. These sites included shrines, quarries, and petroglyphs. The government approved funding to start cleaning up the island in 1993 and the following year Kaho'olawe was conveyed back to the State of Hawai'i to be managed by the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC).

In 1977 "the PKO won a court victory when federal judge Richard Wong ruled that the navy violated both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and an executive order that required the preservation of historic sites. The navy was ordered to redo its 1972 EIS but was allowed to continue training." (See: The Militarization of Hawai`i: Occupation, Accommodation, and Resistance by Kyle Kajihiro, found in: Asian settler colonialism: from local governance to the habits of everyday in Hawai`i Edited by Candice Fujikane and Jonathan Y Okamura, UH Press 2008, p180)

Mansel G. Blackford:  "Navy officials prepared an environmental impact statement in early 1972 in response to the lawsuit. The statement admitted that shelling and bombing hurt Kaho`olawe, stating that 'the adverse effects of cratering, comouflets, sprays of shell and bomb fragments, ground disruptions, water pollution, destruction of vegetation and animal life, and other related effects.' Even so, the statement highlighted perceived 'beneficial environmental effects of military use,' ranging from pulverizing the island’s soil, thus making it amenable to the growth of vegetation, to the accumulation of rain runoff in bomb craters. Then too, navy representatives argued that 'the mineral content per acre of the target sites, from [shell and bomb] fragments, might someday prove economically worthwhile from the standpoint of salvage and retrieval of some of the metallic alloy material involved,' 'Unexploded dud ordnance' did constitute 'a major problem,' but it was one 'without noticeably adverse effect on the human population spread within the Hawaiian archipelago.' In short, according to navy officials, 'thirty years of use of the island as a target site' had 'slightly improved the balance of the island’s ecosystems.' The navy’s report claimed that Kaho`olawe 'contained no areas of particular aesthetic value.'"  (Pathways to the Present: U.S. Development and Its Consequences in the Pacific. University of Hawai`i Press, 2007, pages 36, 40)

Hawaii Business News (Cover Story, November 1973): “Ecology itself has rapidly become a national issue, about as hard to oppose as motherhood or the flag. But while most people agree that something must be done about guarding the nation’s environment, few agree on priorities or even on a definition of the problems. Because ecology has no clear manifesto, it has spawned all sorts of groups and movements. Often this splintering has made much of the protest ineffective. Not so in the case of Life of the Land, which in Hawaii has provided a focal point for a widely diverse group of characters and forces – a polarizing force on the local scene that is disrupting long established political, economic and social alignments. With its bold, sometimes impertinently aggressive tactics LOL has displayed a persistent knack of hitting the State’s governmental and business establishment where it hurts – in the pocketbook. ...The remarkable thing about Life of the Land is the fact that it has succeeded as well as it has against such a broad and potent array of opposition.”


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