Groups Rally to Kill Legislation that Would Weaken Hawaii’s Environmental Law

Paulette Kaleikini and her attorneys from the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation stopped construction on the city's rail project until the Archeological Surveys are completed
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Paulette Kaleikini and her attorneys from the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation stopped construction on the city’s rail project until the Archeological Surveys are completed

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.





  1. Those who are in favor of rail continue to label us who oppose rail as the culprets to stopping "progress." If everyone were diligently doing their homework from start to where we are now they'd be ashamed to discover that our political process has faulted their duty to do what is right and just for the people, and by the people. The strongest reason to oppose the rail is the fact that laws were broken, changed, and ignored to benefit a few big money people and political payback for favors and campaign donations. Example: HART was to be a group of volunteers who already have big paying jobs and somehow they are costing us in excess of 22 million dollars a year in high paying salaries and fancy keeping their "other" jobs. Is that OK with you? If so, then pay my share! They forgot to include safety features on the train so riders don't fall off and get killed…more millions. That OK with you, then pay my share! Do you have a relative who is a senior citizen? Well, Kupuna Care was raided to balance the budget by Abercrombie and guess what..they chose not to replace all of it so we run on half the necessary budget, which is about a 3rd of what it will cost us to pay HART salaries. Do you somehow feel that senior citizens are of lesser value because we are not contributing to society? Think about it and look at who is calling the kettle black.

  2. The pro-rail lobby loves to explain how doing the required archaeological work now is causing the project to be delayed and therefore incur extra cost. This is only true if you accept the idea that the project should have started illegally before the archaeological work was completed.

    This project has a long and irregular footprint, unlike a condominium or shopping center.
    To this day, we do not know the exact footprint of the project in the area that is most likely to have burial remains. The city engineers will not complete their design of the project in the downtown to Ala Moana Center area until sometime next year. Only then will we know where the construction will be and how large each construction pit will be to build the underground supports for rail.

    The current archaeological inventory study is based on old preliminary drawings not final engineering. It is entirely possible that when the city engineers finish their work next year, there will be dozens of rail supports in areas that are not on the old preliminary maps. Will the city ask for supplementary archaeological studies at that time?

    This project should not have started any construction before it was fully engineered and the archaeological study was completed

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