New & Noteworthy: A Refuge Lost, TMT Final Judgment

posted in: June 2014 | 0
A Refuge Lost? Features at two units of the National Park Service on the western shores of the island of Hawai`i — Pu`uhonua o Honaunau and Kaloko-Honokohau national historic parks – are among dozens of significant cultural sites across the country that are at risk of disappearing as a result of climate change.
That was the message in a report released last month by the Union of Concerned Scientists: “National Landmarks at Risk: How rising seas, floods, and wildfires are threatening the United States’ most cherished historic sites.”

At Pu`uhonua, described in the report as “a wartime place of refuge,” features vulnerable to sea level rise include the Great Wall, the `Ale`ale`a heiau, and two historic sections of trail, the report states. “These and other irreplaceable cultural resources are located in low-lying areas of the park that have repeatedly been damaged by storm surges and flooding in the past.” With sea level rise, they will be even more exposed and vulnerable.

Up the coast at Kaloko-Honokohau, the report states, scientists from Stanford University and the University of Hawai`i “identified the Kaloko fishpoind, the `Ai`opio fish trap, and the `Aimakapa fishpond as among the park’s features most at risk from coastal hazards.”

“The beach in front of the `Aimakapa fishpond, which … may be more than 600 years old, is currently eroding t a rate of three to four inches per year. Because the beach separates the pond from the ocean, … the pond could be breached altogether by 2050,” the report notes.

“Given the scale of the problem and the cultural value of the places at risk,” the UCS report states, “it is not enough merely to plan for change … We must begin now to prepare our threatened landmarks to face worsening climate impacts; climate resilience must become a national priority.”

The full report is available online:

TMT Final Judgment: Judge Greg K. Nakamura of the 3rd Circuit Court has signed off on the final judgment in a case involving the appeal of a permit to construct the Thirty Meter Telescope. He upheld the Board of Land and Natural Resources’ award of a Conservation District Use Permit for construction of the facility near the Mauna Kea summit.

The judgment entered on May 5, confirms an earlier ruling that he had made in the case. As of mid-May, Richard Wurdeman, attorney for the six parties who brought the administrative appeal, said his clients had not decided whether to pursue further legal action.

Save the Date: On August 29, artist, chanter, scientist, and Facebook poster extraordinaire Sam `Ohukani`ohi`a Gon will be the guest speaker at Environment Hawai`i’s annual fund-raising dinner. Gon, recently named one of Hawai`i’s living treasures, will be speaking on the topic of the Hawaiians’ pre-contact ecological footprint.

Tickets to the event, at the `Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo, are $65. A $20 tax-deductible donation to Environment Hawai`i is included in the cost. To reserve a seat, please call 808 934-0115 or email

Correction: In our May “Board Talk” item on Legacy Lands projects, we misspelled Laura Devilbiss’s last name.


Volume 24, Number 12 — June 2014


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