363 acres returned to DHHL on Molokaʻi in a US Military move to “right-size” its footprint
January 13, 2023, 3:15 PM HST
* Updated January 14, 7:20 AM
More than 363 acres are being returned to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands on the island of Molokaʻi as the US Air Force moves to “right-size” its footprint.
The announcement was made during a press briefing Friday afternoon by Governor Josh Green, officials with the US Military, DHHL, and State Senator Lynn DeCoite who represents the district that includes Molokaʻi.
“We hope this right-sizing of our footprint will in some small way contribute to the realization of vision that you and the residents of the island have for Molokaʻi,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Hashimoto, Mobilization Assistant to the Commander, US Indo-Pacific Command.
State Senator Lynn DeCoite said, “It is warming to know” that the land is being returned, especially in the northwest Hoʻolehua and Pālāʻau areas where it could provide opportunities for raising cattle, developing agriculture, or homesteading.
“Our inventory of lands and availability to our Native Hawaiian beneficiaries is of the utmost importance,” said Sen. Decoite, calling the area a “key parcel,” that will provide an opportunity to Native Hawaiians to “live the vision of Kūhiō.”
The state senator said that in recent years, there has been an inundation of axis deer, which has led to the depravation of land and erosion of soil on the island.
Sen. DeCoite said officials will be flying back to take a look at the inventory and capacity of the parcel. “Whether it be homesteading, whether it be agricultural or pastoral lots, this is something that will come back into the inventory for the department to decide, based on the list of who is next in line to receive–whether or not it will be opened up for those beneficiaries that have the manaʻo to exercise their rights to agriculture and farming,” she said.
DHHL Director Ikaika Anderson said the property has solid opportunities for pastoral uses and any decisions made on land use will be made in consultation with the people of Molokaʻi and those that represent them.
“On behalf of the beneficiaries of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, it is an honor to be receiving these lands in northern Molokaʻi come back into our land inventory, and to be able to be returned into service for the beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Trust,” he said.
Gov. Green said his administration looked at inventory and immediately consulted with the new DHHL lead to find out where there were opportunities. “Getting land back is an opportunity… Expanding the inventory will further empower the department,” said Gov. Green.
Watch the governor’s press conference here.
While there was no specific dollar amount placed on the property, Gov. Green gave it some perspective saying the 363 acre parcel is worth more than the $40,000 annual lease. “It’s going to be very good for the people that live on Molokaʻi,” he said.
“In our conversations, they’ve changed a great deal, especially the way the military carries out exercises and the way they use land. In the spirit of returning land to the Hawaiian people, this was a good opportunity right out of the gate. There’s a particular cultural significance of returning land on Molokaʻi where we have a much greater percentage of people who are Hawaiian, so that was important to us,” said Gov. Green. “But we are reaching out constantly to our military ʻohana in the islands to find out ways that we can better use land, because we want to build housing and provide agricultural opportunities.”
Colonel Michal Holliday with the US Air Force–the tenant of this particular parcel–said the lease dates back to the 1960s when it was originally leased to the FAA. Through a couple of lease transactions, Col. Holliday said it became Air Force property in 1981.
“We determined that we no longer needed the land in 2007. And so we started the process in and about that time frame–2007-2011–of returning land to DHHL,” said Col. Holliday.
He said site visits were made to determine what needed to be cleaned up, removed, and what DHHL wanted to keep.
According to Col. Holliday removal included all the things associated with transmission and receiving including conduit junction boxes, support structures, and appurtenances. He said asbestos removal was conducted at facilities that DHHL wanted to retain. The material was done in accordance with EPA regulations and properly contained, bagged and “placed in an appropriate landfill site outside of Molokaʻi.”
“We worked through that… and then all the environmental requirements, so we could return the land in the condition desired. But our mission, our requirements, even our technology has changed to where we no longer needed that land,” he said.
“So our technologies are changing, and our administration is changing, so we hoped in the first month to have a few things that we could really–not just do the work that they’ve been planning, but actually send the message: This is our intent which is to restore land and to really move aggressively forward with DHHL,” said Gov. Green.