The Perfect Storm
The wave of federal funding is meeting an understaffed and overwhelmed regulatory agency in Hawaii. The result is both inadequate protection of historic resources and frustrated timelines for beginning important projects.
In late July, the National Park Service (NPS) is scheduled to evaluate Hawaii's State Historic Preservation Division's (SHPD) compliance with federal mandates under the National Historic Preservation Act, including the requirement to provide adequate professionally-qualified staff. SHPD receives over $500,000 in annual federal funding to meet these requirements.
If SHPD loses its federal standing to review and approve federal undertakings, that function will be reassigned to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP). Every Hawai‘i-based preservation review would be overseen by ACHP in Washington. This is unprecedented in the 40 year history of the National Historic Preservation Act, and is a completely unknown and unpredictable process. It is anticipated that review and approval processes would be substantially delayed.
Millions of dollars and dozens of capital projects are at risk. These include the Navy’s $50,000,000 Shipyard Modernization project; the Air Force’s $30,000,000 efficiency improvement and consolidation project; the Department of Transportation’s plans for improvements to airports, harbors and roads; and the Federal Transit Authority’s plan for a Honolulu Rapid Transit system. All of these proposals must receive review and concurrence of plans to protect and mitigate impacts to historic resources from the State Historic Preservation Officer before they can proceed.
he capital projects funded by the millions of dollars of federal stimulus money making its way to Hawai‘i will significantly alter the way we travel, where we live, how we learn, what our visitors experience, and how we settle our islands. These “shovel ready” projects offer badly needed jobs and help ensure that our public facilities are best equipped to handle the challenges of tomorrow.
These federally-supported projects will also have impacts on many historic resources across the state: military installations; transportation facilities of roads, airports, harbors, rail and bridges; schools; and neighborhoods. If handled poorly, the projects could be significant threats to those historic and cultural places. Hawai‘i must be careful that these projects have adequately assessed their effects and have made commitments to preserve and protect our treasured historic places.
In normal times, the preservation and environmental statutes enforced by public agencies provide a safety net. These safety nets ensure that impacts are disclosed and that agreements are made to minimize harm of our precious resources.
Unfortunately, the State Historic Preservation Division, which is charged with regulatory oversight regarding historic sites, is so underfunded and understaffed, it risks losing its federal funding for next year. The current State budget cuts and the anticipated furlough/lay-off of State employees further complicate the situation, as does the Administration’s position of prohibiting hiring of special-funded positions or using contractors, even though these solutions are funded separately and would have no effect on the state’s general fund.
The State Historic Preservation Division currently has 8 vacant positions, including 3 that are federally-funded and 2 that are specially-funded.
Several federal, state and county governments have expressed interest and willingness to provide special funding for additional positions to help expedite review of major projects that require historic preservation compliance under both federal and state law. These funders include the Hawai‘i State Department of Transportation (DOT) and a private funder on Kaua‘i.
Please contact Governor Lingle and ask her to:
- Allow the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) contract qualified professionals to perform critical tasks, and
- Allow the SHPD to spend its funding from federal and non-state sources.
The Honorable Linda Lingle
Governor, State of Hawai`iExecutive Chambers
Honolulu, Hawai`i 96813
Phone: (808) 586-0034
Fax: (808) 586-0006
Questions for Historic Hawaii or about this alert? Call Kiersten Faulkner at (808)523-2900 or email email@example.com.