Thursday, August 6, 2009

Preservation unit under probe

By Kaylee Noborikawa
Star Bulletin

The National Park Service is investigating the state Historic Preservation Division, which has been under harsh criticism in recent years for its handling of ancient remains and historic sites, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie said yesterday.

Abercrombie asked the park service to complete the evaluation as swiftly as possible due to its importance to the state's economy and "the danger that Hawaii's cultural and historical resources are not being adequately protected."

"I'm letting them know that I'm aware of it and that I don't want it to be on the back burner," he said. "I want it to be completed as fast as possible because everything is in limbo."

The Historic Preservation Division, which is responsible for preserving historical and cultural resources, has received many complaints about historic sites and ancient remains in recent years, including a recent bulldozing of Hawea heiau. There have been management and staffing problems, and many projects have stalled due to backlogged paperwork, posing problems for developers, archaeologists and the state's economy, Abercrombie said.

"This problem extends to projects funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which were intended to be implemented in an expedient manner in order to help the state and national economy," Abercrombie said. "It's very worrisome to me that we could see all kinds of federal dollars held up because we can't do the basic work of the state Historic Preservation Division. We simply can't have that."

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