Senate Passes Bill to Fund Hawaiʻi Land Projects

February 12, 2019, 3:09 PM HST · Updated February 12, 3:09 PM
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Sen. Brian Schatz voted today to pass public lands legislation that would allocate more federal funding to public land projects throughout Hawaiʻi. The package of bills provides permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which includes Schatz-authored legislation that makes Hawaiʻi eligible for drought management and water conservation grants for the first time ever.  

The package also upgrades Honouliuli from a national monument to a national historic site and re-designates Pearl Harbor as its own separate national memorial. These changes allow both sites to receive National Park Services resources. Sen. Schatz worked with the bill’s author, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, to include these Hawai‘i-related provisions in the bill.  

“Thanks to the passage of this bill, Honouliuli will be better positioned to receive federal resources that are essential for its ongoing  preservation and maintenance,” said Jacce Mikulanec, president and executive director of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i. “We applaud Hawai‘i’s Congressional delegation for their work in this effort and for helping to ensure this site will continue to be a resource to teach and educate us all about the importance of civil rights, the US Constitution, and democracy. No time in our country’s history has this been more important than today.”

Hawaiʻi has received nearly $230 million in LWCF funding to help protect historic sites like Haleakalā, Hawaiʻi volcanoes, Kalaupapa, Kaloko-Honokohau, and Puʻuhonua ʻo  Hōnaunau. This funding has also helped preserve wildlife refuges throughout the state, including the Hakalau Forest, Hanalei Valley, James Campbell, Kealia Pond, Kīlauea Point, Oʻahu Forest, and Palmyra Atoll.

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In 2003, the 113,000-acre, $22 million Kahuku Ranch addition to the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was the largest single land conservation transaction in the history of the state. 

“Though most people have never heard of the LWCF, this important fund has invested more than $229 million in Hawaiʻi to protect treasured natural and cultural landscapes throughout the state,” said Ulalia Woodside, executive director of the Nature Conservancy’s Hawaiʻi Program.

The public lands package includes Schatzʻs SECURE Water Amendments act, which expands grants and increases funding for water conservation and drought projects, provides resources for data collection and analysis of water supply and use, and makes Hawaiʻi water conservation projects eligible for grants. Hawaiʻi is not currently eligible for WaterSMART grants, which support local water management projects that conserve and use water more efficiently.

The package also includes another bill that Schatz wrote to help improve aging water delivery systems. The legislation requires the Department of Interior to release a report every two years that details the needed repairs and rehabilitations at Bureau of Reclamation facilities.

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