Ask the Mayor: Shouldn’t the County Clean Up Kahoʻolawe?

July 5, 2015, 12:00 PM HST · Updated July 13, 7:21 AM
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Map of Kahoolawe, courtesy KIRC.

Map of Kahoolawe, courtesy KIRC.

Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.

Mr. Mayor:

Q: I was reading that Kahoʻolawe is going to run out of money soon and that they still have a long way to go as far as cleaning up the island. Isn’t Kahoʻolawe part of Maui County? As a taxpayer, I would be okay with spending some of my taxes on cleanup and restoration efforts. I know that this is the Navy’s fault for bombing poor Kahoʻolawe back in the day, but it is part of our Maui County island ʻohana and we should be taking care of our own.

A: Yes, Kahoʻolawe is part of Maui County, and like you, I agree that the county has a role to play in supporting Kahoʻolawe. Since I have been mayor, the county has given grants to the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission each year to incorporate solar and PV at their Kahoʻolawe base camp; the camp’s electricity is provided by a diesel generator, so converting the camp to solar and PV will reduce KIRC’s need to purchase and transport fuel, thus saving money and manpower.

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KIRC is a state agency created by the Legislature when the island reserve was returned to the state by the federal government. The KIRC was initially funded by a small percentage of the $400 million federal appropriation for the cleanup of unexploded ordnance. Made in payments over a number of years, this “Kahoʻolawe Rehabilitation Trust Fund” was never intended–nor was ever large enough–to serve as an endowment to perpetually support the KIRC’s mission of restoration and management of the former bombing range.

In the final reports to Congress before Kahoʻolawe was returned to the state, it was acknowledged that federal support would be limited and that state funding would ultimately be needed.

In recent years, KIRC has requested funding from the state Legislature, knowing that its trust fund would soon be depleted. With an annual operating budget of approximately $2.7 million, the KIRC not only restores, maintains, monitors and preserves the environmental, natural, cultural and marine resources of the island reserve, it also essentially runs a self-contained municipality–providing transportation, housing, water, sanitation, electricity and food needed to support its staff and volunteers.

It would be hard to find another government program that is as efficient.

For the upcoming Fiscal Year 2016 and Fiscal Year 2017 budgets, the state Legislature approved an annual appropriation of only $1 million for the KIRC, which is far short of its needs, and so it will likely have to cut back on its staff and its work.

I have testified at the state Legislature in support of full state funding for the KIRC; hopefully in future years, the state will appropriate full funding for the KIRC to continue its resources management and restoration work.

To support the KIRC, you can contact their office at 243-5020 or go online.

Want to Ask the Mayor?

Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email at [email protected], by phone at 270-7855 or by mail to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.

 

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