Construction on the city’s $5.2 billion Honolulu rail project ground to a halt last August after attorneys from the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation representing Paulette Kalekini convinced Hawaii Supreme Court justices that the city violated environmental laws.
The city administration began construction on the 20-mile elevated steel on steel rail project without completing an archeological survey.
The city argued the archeological survey could be completed in four segments. But the justices disagreed, ruling that under current Hawaii law, all segments should be completed to determine if there are any native Hawaiian burial sites before construction began.
The ruling will put the rail project on hold for more than a year.
But some Hawaii lawmakers who support the rail and other development projects impacted by this Hawaii law want to change it.
Lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 1171, which authorized the phased review of certain projects by the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ State Historic Preservation Division.
Proponents say the changes would ensure state and federal laws are “consistent.”
But a group calling itself “FRIENDS OF SHPD” or the State Historic Preservation Division is opposed to the change.
The group has partnered with the Society for Hawaiian Archaeology, the Sierra Club Hawai’i Chapter, the Society for American Archaeology, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the O’ahu Island Burial Council, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation and Coalition of Students to rally against SB1171 and get the legislation killed.
They said the measure puts “historic sites and iwi kupuna at risk, while allowing for poor planning practices that could cost the state and developers more in the long run.”
The bill is currently in conference committee. The legislative session ends May 2.