Coastal Resilience Project Receives $1 Million in Federal, State Funds
On March 11, the Board of Land and Natural Resources voted to authorize the Department of Land and Natural Resources to enter into an agreement with the University of Hawai`i that would provide the school with $100,000 in cash and more than $300,000 in in-kind services as a match for an $845,000 federal coastal resiliency grant.
The project covered by the grant will include the development of: 1) a web-based hazard exposure and vulnerability mapping tool, 2) guidelines for integrating coastal resilience into existing planning frameworks; and 3) guidelines and training for post-disaster rebuilding and recovery.
Under Act 83 of the 2014 legislative session, the Hawai`i Climate Adaptation Initiative Act, the state must develop a statewide Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation report by the end of next year. UH’s project will contribute toward the completion of that report, according to Sam Lemmo, administrator for the DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands, which has been tasked with leading efforts to meet the requirements of Act 83.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to enhance our work, looking to expand beyond sea level rise,” he told the Land Board. Funds appropriated to develop the sea level rise report will be used as a portion of the matching funds required by the grant, issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, he said.
Although the University of Hawai`i has already developed some rather detailed mapping tools that show certain coastal hazards (i.e., tsunami or storm wave inundation) in certain areas of the state, more can be done. The proposed mapping tool would show erosion and coastal inundation hazard exposure under sea level rise scenarios throughout the state with a high enough resolution to be effectively used by planners and communities.
“This grant will really improve the web-based hazards map,” Lemmo said. “I believe it’s worth the investment. It’ll make the end product … much more powerful.”
Land Board chair Suzanne Case said she hoped the project will lead to the incorporation of sea level rise into more county plans and in the calculation of shoreline setbacks. To date, even with all the studies and mapping tools that the university has already produced showing the potential local impacts of sea level rise, some counties have been slow to make use of them.
“We’re hoping something will stick,” Lemmo said.
“After this is all done, what do you see is going to need to be done?” asked O`ahu Land Board member Keone Downing.
Case reiterated that things such as adequate shoreline setbacks, beach hardening policies, and planning documents need to be in place so that new construction is kept out of inundation zones. What’s more, she said that emergency planning needs to be done so decision-makers have the ability to say “when we have our next El Niño, these are the areas where we need to start thinking about evacuation plans, where the roads are going to disintegrate.”
“The ultimate outcome is a paradigm shift in the way we’re developing our coastlines,” said UH coastal geologist Bradley Romine, who helped draft the grant proposal.
On Kaua`i, the county will at least have to revisit its setbacks, according to Kaua`i Land Board member Tommy Oi. “Their old setbacks won’t work already. The roads … waves washing up every year. They’re gonna have to take somebody’s house to move the road.”
Lemmo suggested that those kinds of dilemmas will become commonplace. The Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee, which will ultimately produce the sea level rise report, “is going to show we have been operating under an assumption that is no longer the case. … Things are changing and this report will underscore that. … We’re getting out of that Goldilocks zone, that comfort zone.”
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Board Approves $4.5M in Grants
To Five Legacy Land Projects
On April 8, the state Board of Land and Natural Resources approved its 2016 slate of projects to receive a total of $4.5 million from the Land Conservation Fund. The “Legacy Land” grants include the following:
- $175,000 to Hi`ipaka LLC and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) to help buy 3.75 acres in Waimea Valley with a number of cultural sites, including the final resting place of Hewahewa, the kahuna nui under Kamehameha I.
- $1.3 million to TPL and the Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center to help buy 0.77 acres in Kuli`ou`ou on O`ahu. The high cost for such a small lot can be attributed to the fact that it’s a buildable, coastal lot in an expensive neighborhood. The lot is being purchased to help protect the adjacent Kanewai fishpond and the freshwater spring that feeds into both the pond and Maunalua Bay. “Ownership and stewardship of Kanewai Spring by Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center will not only safeguard the health and function of this precious freshwater source, but will provide opportunities for educational access for schools, community groups and the public,” a DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife report states. “Although the property protected by this project is small in acreage, an entire ecosystem will be enhanced.”
- $1.5 million to TPL and the DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) to help buy 3,027 acres in Helemano from Dole Food Company. DOFAW hopes to create a Helemano Wilderness Recreation Area with the land, which will finally secure public access to the Poamoho Ridge Trail, a premier route to the summit of the Ko`olau mountains and the `Ewa Forest Reserve.
- $1.5 million to TPL and DOFAW to help buy 53 acres in fee at Kawela Bay on O`ahu’s North Shore and a conservation easement over 606 acres at Turtle Bay. The 53 acres will be leased back to Turtle Bay Resort for 65 years. The land under the easement will be permanently restricted from further development. Both purchases are part of a $35 million deal approved by the state Legislature.
- $25,000 to DOFAW to buy 4,470 acres of Kuka`iau Ranch to add to the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve. The amount represents only a portion of the original request of nearly $1.4 million. Should any extra funds become available from any of the other projects (except the Turtle Bay one), the Land Board authorized its chair to redirect them to this project.
With regard to the Helemano lands, board member Chris Yuen stressed, “We really have to have that. The whole access thing, it’s a problem.”
DOFAW administrator Dave Smith said that significant funds from other sources still need to be raised to complete the purchase.
“We keep chipping away. If we reach $10 million, we’ll get some assurance from Dole we can get it,” he said. “Helemano is not a done deal.”
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Shark Fishing Approved
At French Frigate Shoals
The Land Board has again authorized the removal by federal resource managers of up to 17 Galapagos sharks that threaten the endangered Hawaiian monk seal pup population at breeding beaches at French Frigate Shoals (FFS) in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Last year, they were allowed to take up to 20 and caught only one.
Of the 600 or so Galapagos sharks that hang around the shoals, only a very small subset seems to be targeting the seal pups, NOAA research ecologist Stacie Robinson told the board at its April 8 meeting.
“Catching one shark seems not very successful from a fishing point of view. What’s going on with that?” asked Land Board member Chris Yuen.
Robinson explained that the low catch numbers are because their goal isn’t to simply catch a whole bunch of sharks, it’s to catch specific sharks in shallow waters while influencing the ecosystem as little as possible.
“One option would be to go deeper. Our approach is to err on the side of caution. We don’t want to expand our [fishing] area. The chances of catching an innocent shark would go up. … We want to make sure if we catch one it’s a guilty one,” she said, adding that they would also not want to chum the waters and attract more sharks to the shallows.
She said that bad weather and funding cuts have also limited the number of days they have been able to fish for sharks.
“We’re hoping this summer we can have several days of fishing to get our numbers up,” she said.
Although moving the adult females to safer areas isn’t really feasible, since they are pretty faithful to their birthing sites, Robinson said NOAA does translocate pups as soon as they’re weaned from Trig Island to Tern Island a few miles away.
“That’s been really successful,” she said.
When board member Keone Downing suggested that the scientists take a fisherman with them to FFS to catch more sharks, NOAA’s Jeff Walters explained that they had done that when they had more funds. Even if they had the funds, however, “it’s hard to find someone who wants to go up there for so many weeks, and they’d get really frustrated with how strict we are on the [fishing] methods,” he said.
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Malama Maunalua Gets $95,000
For Community-Based Planning
For all the publicity that Malama Maunalua has received for its good works, Land Board member Keone Downing is not only unimpressed, he’s adamant that the non-profit is the wrong group to receive nearly $100,000 in funds to help bring the community together.
“Malama Maunalua has been a bad neighbor to the community groups in Maunalua Bay. It’s real hard for me to give them money for this when they’ve not wanted to sit down with community groups, to the point they formed a group called Imua Maunalua for this task,” he said at the Land Board’s April 8 meeting.
“The community was already frustrated with them because they never signed on to what a lot of things the community wanted to do,” he said. “We’re going to give them $95,000 to try to bring the community together. From their past record, they’re gonna fail.”
The state Legislature appropriated the funds last year to: 1) develop and implement a community-based, partner-supported bay-wide management plan; 2) conduct large-scale marine restoration community events, such as invasive algae removals; and 3) “foster the next generation of marine stewards by providing internship and career opportunities,” a report by the DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources states.
Despite Downing’s misgivings, Land Board chair Suzanne Case supported the grant, noting that she has worked in several capacities with Malama Maunalua and the Great Huki, referring to the massive invasive algae cleanups organized in part by her former employer, The Nature Conservancy of Hawai`i.
“What needs to happen is broad collaborative planning,” she said. “A number of groups would like to do that but don’t seem to get everybody under the same tent.”
“Do you think it’s worth it to give them $95,000 for them to be the lead?” Downing asked.
Case responded that the Legislature makes its own determinations on what projects to fund. “The agencies don’t have a say in grants-in-aid. … From a staff perspective, it’s not discretionary. What we’re approving is a contract.”
She added, “I’d like to enlist your help in the conversations.”
In the end, the board approved the grant, with Downing the sole dissenter.
— Teresa Dawson
Volume 26, Number 11 May 2016