HCDA will not compromise with OHA on their plans for Kewalo Basin, even though OHA is a major stakeholder (HCDA PART 2)

On March 1, 2009, the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) assumed the management of the Kewalo Basin Harbor from the Department of Transportation and hired ALMAR Management, Inc. (a California-based marina operator), to oversee day to day harbor operations.

On June 7, 2012, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that HCDA agreed to lease the 143-slip harbor in Kakaako for 50 years to Almar Management Inc. and a partner doing business as KB Marina LP.  The Almar partnership would finance $22 million in repair work to replace all piers and docks and would increase boats slips from 143 to 243.

Almar anticipates the upgrades taking five years to complete and would pay HCDA about $45 million in rent over 50 years.  Is this what the State considers a fair price?  These are ceded lands and OHA beneficiaries & state stakeholders will end up losing out.  Who is benefiting from this deal?

As I mentioned in my last column, OHA received a letter from HCDA on August 6, 2013, stating HCDA will not compromise with OHA on their plans for Kewalo Basin, even though OHA is a major stakeholder.

The HCDA and their many controversial plans for Kakaako have made frequent headlines in the media lately, but most of us are in the dark about what exactly the HCDA is and who is really in charge.


The 1976 State Legislature created HCDA to revitalize urban areas that were underused and deteriorating.  The Kaka‘ako Community Development District covers 600 acres within Piikoi, King, and Punchbowl Streets and Ala Moana Boulevard, as well as the waterfront from Kewalo Basin to Forrest Avenue.  (Source: http://dbedt.hawaii.gov/hcda/about-hcda/)

HCDA is attached to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT) for administrative purposes and their mission is to create “vibrant” communities within Kakaako and encourage new investment by building essential public infrastructure such as roadways, utilities, and parks that are necessary for redevelopment.


HCDA’s Kakaako Authority is composed of members from the public and private sectors.  They include:

Four “ex officio” voting members from State departments:

  1. Dean Seki, Comptroller, Accounting and General Services;
  2. Kalbert Young, Director, Budget and Finance;
  3. Richard Lim, DBEDT Director ; and
  4. Glenn Okimoto, Director, Transportation.

The Governor also appoints members from a list of names submitted by the Honolulu City Council, the Senate President and the House Speaker.

At-large member:

  1. Brian Lee, Director of Research and Communications, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Community members:

  1. Miles Kamimura, President, Pacific Property Group;
  2.  Lois Mitsunaga, CFO, Structural Engineer at Mitsunaga & Associates. INC.; and
  3. VACANT.

Cultural specialist: 

  1. VACANT.

An Executive Director serves as the CEO and is appointed by HCDA members.


What is sorely missing here is disclosure.

  • Do the members of the Authority, especially those from the private sector, have any conflicts of interest?


  • Do they represent any clients that would benefit from any development projects being considered for Kakaako or are they themselves in a position to benefit from any developments?


  • Are they contributing to any political campaigns in 2014?


  • Should HCDA have sole power over planning, zoning, and directly promoting economic development in Kakaako?

These are the questions the community should be asking this Authority.

Hawaiians lost control of a $5 billion Trust Asset


August 2010 Ka Wai Ola Column

On December 14, 2006, the board of trustees authorized the Administrator and Chair Haunani Apoliona to negotiate with the Governor and the Federal Government so that OHA could have a meaningful role in the coordinated management of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument (now known as Papahanaumokuakea) that was established by George W. Bush through Presidential Proclamation 8112 of June 15, 2006.

During the vote, I expressed my deep concerns that OHA’s role should not be just limited to the oversight of the cultural and historic consultation aspects of Papahanaumokuakea but also the proper management and protection of its fishing resources.

After the Proclamation, Papahanaumokuakea was managed through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between (1) the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, (2) the U.S. Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and (3) the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  I was concerned that OHA was left out and asked the Administration if OHA could be added to this MOA at a later date.  They said, “Yes.”

Flash-forward to four years later and OHA is still not a part of the MOA and we are getting reports that Hawaiians are having a difficult time accessing Papahanaumokuakea and continuing their traditional practice of subsistence fishing.

Not only has OHA failed to become a full partner in the management of Papahanaumokuakea, one of our most sacred, culturally significant and environmentally sensitive sites, but now five OHA trustees (Apoliona, Machado, Stender, Mossman, and Waihee) are giving their de facto support for the current management arrangement by pushing for Papahanaumokuakea’s designation as a “prestigious” United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.

On July 8, 2010, the five trustees voted to support the Nomination of Papahanaumokuakea as a World Heritage Site despite a myriad of concerns including:

(1) In early 2009, the Marine Resources Committee of the American Bar Association concluded that the George W. Bush’s proclamations establishing Papahanaumokuakea were illegal and that the jurisdiction of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WESPAC) under the Magnusson-Stevens Act could not be terminated by the proclamation.

(2) The Bar Committee also certified that the process used by Bush had terminated any opportunity for meaningful public input.

(3) The Bush administration designated Monuments across the United States, on land as well as in the oceans.  In these areas, public and native rights have been ignored.

(4) The U.S Military has full access to Papahanaumokuakea and can come and go as they please.

(5) Other World Heritage Sites, such as the Galapagos Islands, have been permanently damaged from a massive increase in tourism after its designation.

I strongly support delaying the World Heritage Site designation for Papahanaumokuakea until there is genuine support for it from our beneficiaries and all of the concerns I have mentioned above have been properly addressed.  OHA has done polls regarding the Akaka bill in the past.  We should certainly do one for this issue.

The fisheries contained within Papahanaumokuakea have been valued at an estimated five billion dollars (US).  If it is properly and sustainably managed, it could provide the food that our future nation will need to survive, not to mention that theses lands are considered ceded.  We cannot allow such an important site to be under the sole control of the state and federal governments who have a long history of mismanaging our resources. 

OHA and the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council must be equal signatories to the MOA to ensure that Papahanaumokuakea will be protected.  There is absolutely no need for the state DLNR to be a signatory to this MOA.  DLNR has mismanaged ceded lands since 1959.  How can they possibly manage the islands and waters of Papahanaumokuakea?  The idea is beyond comprehension.

What do you think?  Shouldn’t you have an opportunity to voice your opinions on this important matter?

To view four video clips from the OHA Board of Trustees meeting on July 8, 2010 click on the following links:

(1) BOT 7-8-10 Board Counsel Opinion – Agenda Item Proper


(2) William Aila Jr. Supports Papahanaumokuakea as Heritage Site


(3) OHA BOT 7-8-10 Trustee Stender on Papahanaumokuakea


(4) OHA BOT 7-8-10 Mililani Trask on Papahanaumokuakea


We Still Don’t Need the Whale Sanctuary

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

June 16, 1997

Governor Cayetano’s recent decision to enter into an agreement with the federal government permitting the creation of the federal Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale Sanctuary was a big disappointment. This past May, the Board of Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs voted unanimously to oppose the sanctuary. We shared the doubts that prompted Mayor Linda Lingle and other leaders to urge Governor Cayetano to veto the plan, and we also had reasons of our own.

Our Board has a duty to protect the public trust’s resources derived from public lands, including the submerged lands, the water surface, the water column, the seabed and all flora, fauna and minerals they contain. The legislation then before the governor, and in its present state, guaranteed us no protection with respect to the federal government’s use and control of these resources. As fiduciaries, we could not assume that the federal government would always exercise its authority over the sanctuary are in a manner consistent with the best interests of the Hawaiian trust. The Governor knew this, but unfortunately paid no attention to local concerns. Now OHA is saddled with “co-stewardship,” as the federal government’s Environmental Impact Statement calls its shared dominion over the submerged ceded lands comprising the sanctuary. OHA, of course, had enough problems dealing with one “steward,” let alone two.

My own opposition to the sanctuary goes beyond issues involving ceded lands, sovereignty and Hawaiian rights. I’m concerned with the potential for destruction. Like many modern scientists, the Hawaiians of the pre-contact ahupua’a knew that interference with nature’s delicate balance could wreck havoc with the environment. So traditionally they managed the entire eco-system rather than a single species. The wisdom of their ancient practices has been conf1rmed again and again. Recently, for example, I spoke to Colin Kippen, a Native Hawaiian judge for the Squamash Tribe in Oregon, about what happens when a single species reproduces to dominate its environment. Judge Kippen has listened to tribe members complain of the damage caused by an over-population of whales in sanctuary waters. He has seen where whale fecal matter has contaminated and destroyed clam beds and other sources of revenue Pacific Northwest fishermen, including Native Americans, used to depend on. The animals are so crowded that, tragically, they are beaching themselves in desperation.

In a press release, Governor Cayetano defended his decision to bring this disastrous situation to Hawaiian waters by, among other modifications, claiming to limit the sanctuary’s boundaries to half of what was originally proposed. Just how the limits will work is unclear given legal protections in place already. As an endangered species, the humpback whale cannot be approached within 300 feet in its habitat. Existing law does not confine that habitat to the 600 miles designated by Cayetano. Rather, the habitat moves with each whale which therefore enjoys a de facto floating sanctuary with or without the recently signed agreement between the state and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. To date, there have been no complaints that either boaters or fishermen have violated this space.

Why then was this unnecessary State-Federal partnership forced on us? The only justification seems to be the $800,000 to one million dollars for research and study projects. The Governor claims this chump change will, somehow, provide the State with an economic boost!

The Governor made the wrong call on the sanctuary by listening to the wrong people-green nazis, out-of-state marine biologists and animal rights extremist–rather than the Hawaiians who have worked, protected and loved these waters for generations. We need to remember this disregard for public opinion and to look for a change in 1998.

Privatization of Small Boat Harbors…Citizens Beware

By: Trustee Rowena Akana, 1997

Source: Ka Wai Ola O OHA

During the 1997 legislative session, HB 1547 HD2 SD1 CD1, signed by the governor as Act 106, created a task force in the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to evaluate the feasibility of and to make recommendations on a community-based management pilot program for one or more small boat harbors. This bill originally established a three-year pilot program to convert one such harbor into an independent, privately managed marina in accord with an operating agreement with DLNR. Public reaction caused legislators to rewrite the bill into a vehicle which reviews the prudence of community-based management of small boat harbors. Were they trying to slip one by us?

The state’s small boat harbors are important assets constructed, maintained, and operated for the purposes of recreation, landing of fish and inter-island commerce. As centers of economic activity, they produce revenue. Currently, they are regulated by DLNR, and are subject to many rules. The original HB 1547 would have allowed an exemption to the rules.

Hoping for a consulting agreement with DLNR to manage small boat harbors, WestRec Marinas, a California marina management firm, lobbied the governor and Michael Wilson to effect legislation which would privatize small boat harbors. Fortunately, WestRec is subject to Chapters 76-77. This setback is probably temporary as the legislature is known to have made exceptions to civil service laws in the past, and may do so again if pursued by interested parties.

Makes me wonder what the real story is behind Act 160 and WestRec Marinas. This firm has been under scrutiny in California, and has defaulted on a $2.5 million mortgage in south Florida, two marinas in Washington and another in Maryland. I would question its credibility.

In Hawaii Fishing News, Rick Gaffney’s article, “Every User A Loser For Sale: Hawaii’s Small Boat Harbors,” points to the governor’s enthusiasm for privatization of small boat harbors and whether his enthusiasm is fueled by companies like WestRec. Money may be the bottom line in privatization, but the governor, Mike Wilson and the legislature need to be concerned about the taxpayers who use these facilities. The real question is what happens to local boaters and fishermen when small boat harbors are privatized? Will they be able to fish off the banks of the harbor?

Rick Gaffney asks, “Do you think akule fishing would be allowed in a privatized small-boat harbor? No Way!” I hope the governor, department heads and legislators will provide solid answers to many questions that have been unanswered or not asked. And what of the submerged lands in the harbors? Will the state look out for Hawaiian interest? If privatization occurs, then management controls everything.

OHA’s Rowena Akana Testifies Against Acquisition of Ka’iwi Shoreline

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, July 10, 1991

On July 1, 1991, OHA Trustee Rowena Akana, Vice Chairwoman of the OHA Board of Trustees testified against acquisition of Ka’iwi Shoreline Park by the federal government. Trustee Akana spoke at a hearing in Honolulu conducted by Senator Akaka before the U. S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Public Lands and National Parks and Forests. The official position of OHA and Trustee Akana was stated and included the following testimony:

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs recognizes that the Ka’iwi area has a unique and recreational value to the people of the State and should be preserved as open space. But, OHA believes the best interests of Hawaii and the Hawaiian people will not be served by allowing the federal government to acquire the property in question. OHA believes that preservation can best be handled at a local level where the concerns and considerations of both the Hawaiian community and the general community are better understood.

The basis of OHA’s opposition is two-fold: First, much of the property included in the park proposal is owned by the Bishop Estate. For those unfamiliar with Hawaii, the Bishop Estate is a private trust estate established by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last descendant of the line of Kamehameha. The sole purpose of this trust is to educate native Hawaiian children. We cannot overemphasize the importance of Kamehameha Schools in their educational goals to the Hawaiian community. Bishop Trust is one of the remaining legacies of a proud Hawaiian nation. We are especially concerned with the involuntary taking of Bishop Estate land by any entity.

Secondly, Hawaii has a long and often bitter history with the federal government over Hawaiian land. With the active and illegal involvement of the United States, the Hawaiian nation was overthrown and more than 1.8 million acres of Hawaiian land were seized without the consent of, or compensation to, the native Hawaiian people. They continue to seek the return of the Hawaiian lands to the Hawaiian people, but their land claims against the federal government have not yet been addressed. Under such circumstances, the acquisition of more land by the federal government cannot be justified.

Immediately upon acquiring the public trust lands which were meant to be held for the benefit of the Hawaiian people, the federal government began manipulating their use. With the sugar industry in mind, the federal government created the Hawaiian Homes Trust in 1920 and set aside certain lands for native Hawaiian homesteads and agricultural purposes. This planned community was kept to the most marginal lands, while planters were allowed the most productive agricultural lands for sugar and pineapple. Subsequently, even the marginal lands were taken for federal non-trust purposes.

Lualualei Naval Ammunition Depot on Oahu is built on more than 1,000 acres of Hawaiian Homes Trust lands. The buffer zone around the Pacific Missile Range facility is Hawaiian Homes Trust land also. Large segments of private and public lands have been appropriated by the federal government with a promise of return when the stated need is over. Most often, that promise has been broken by the federal government. Kahoolawe, Waikane Valley and Bellows Field were taken in response to the urgencies of World War II. More than 50 years later, none of that land has been returned to its owners.

Although we are grateful to Senator Akaka in 1990 for establishing the Kahoolawe Conveyance Commission, we are hopeful that at least that part of our concerns will be resolved with the Commission’s work and with the Senator’s continued assistance, the days of a much more adequate and responsible federal response will be upon us soon. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for Waikane Valley and Bellows Field. Instead of returning Waianae, the federal government is condemning the privately owned land and suggesting the State buy back trust lands.

The Hawaiian people have spent a full century trying to overcome the consequences of the federal stewardship of our land and resources. Recently, there has been a growing understanding in our community of the Hawaiian history and its effect upon the lives of the Hawaiian people. There is little doubt that Senator Akaka, as a native Hawaiian, understands and shares our concerns and is just as eager to try to correct the injustices that have occurred.

OHA’s official position is that the Ka’iwi area should not be turned over to the federal government under the National Parks and Forests, and that it should remain under state control.

As Hawaiians continue to forge their plans for the future, they believe that it is best to manage their own resources. They can only truly be accountable for their future when they have control over that future.