Bills progress to put fishing areas under community control, fund ohia death research, rename airport

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They say making laws is like making sausage. You don’t really want to know how it’s done.


They say making laws is like making sausage. You don’t really want to know how it’s done.

In the early stages, though, the process is more like throwing spaghetti at the wall until a strand sticks. Each year, lawmakers introduce scores of bills — far more than they hope to get passed. Here’s a look at the status of some key proposals floated by West Hawaii lawmakers this session.

A group of residents at Kaupulehu is pushing to develop the first community-based fishery management area on the island. Now, lawmakers are urging the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to act much more quickly in establishing other such areas around the state. Act 271 gave DLNR the ability to establish community based subsistence areas in the mid 1990s. But since then, rules have been adopted for only one area — Haena on Kauai.

House Bill 2023, co-sponsored by Kona Rep. Nicole Lowen and Kohala Rep. Cindy Evans, would require DLNR to set up five similar areas under local community management by 2020.

“There are community groups moving forward with this, but it’s taking longer than they would like,” Lowen said. “The bill puts some pressure on the department to act more quickly.”

DLNR Chairwoman Suzanne Case opposes the measure, saying the timetable isn’t realistic — but not because the nearshore fisheries don’t need help nor because the department opposes community stewardship, according to her testimony.

“Designation is a lengthy process that takes considerably more time than most people expect,” Case wrote. “This slow process is due to the level of community consultation that must occur in order to gather input from all interested parties on a CBSFA proposal. The department has chosen not to begin the formal rule-making process until we are satisfied that community discussions have occurred to sufficiently address the multitude of concerns.”

Opponents of the bill include some hunters and fishermen. Count Dean Sensui, executive producer of the the TV show “Hawaii Goes Fishing,” among the opposition.

“Hawaii should hold off on creating any more CBSFAs in order to observe what develops at Haena over a period of several years,” he wrote. “It would be helpful to see how their management plan works out over time, and whether it’s as effective as hoped.”

Supporters include The Nature Conservancy, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs with certain qualifications, and Kuaaina Ulu Auamo. The bill passed the House Committee on Finance on Thursday.

Another bill to rename the Kona International Airport the Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport, also sponsored by Lowen, is sailing ahead. House Bill 1736 cleared the finance committee on Wednesday and is co-sponsored by a dozen lawmakers.

“A bunch of people have mentioned it to me, with the museum closing and the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster,” Lowen said. “It seemed like an appropriate way to honor a local hero. He inspired so many kids from Kona over the years.”

Among other bills, a provision to fund a shooting facility for West Hawaii is also making progress. The bill to pay for public outreach, planning and environmental studies was passed by the Committee on Finance on Thursday. House Bill 2528, introduced by Evans, enjoys the support of DLNR and hunting groups. The facility, proposed for state land adjacent to the Puu Anahulu landfill, would be the first public venue for rifle and handgun range shooting on the island.

Three sound tests and two public hearings were held on the matter from 2012 to 2015, but the public remains divided on the plan. Some 78 pages of testimony have been submitted on the measure.

“What is the alternative? People need a safe place to shoot,” said Tom Lodge, chairman of the Hawaii County Game Management Commission. “There are a lot of reasons to take your kids through appropriate steps to learn to shoot, and we just can’t do that here.”

The most prominent opponents are the Kohala Coast and Waikoloa resort associations, which hold that a shooting facility close to the resort area would be bad for business and the area’s reputation.

“Our concern is gunfire audible on the beach,” said Stephanie Donoho, administrative director of the Kohala Coast Resort Association, representing a dozen resorts. “It changes the character of what people come to the area to experience. Right now, people on the beach don’t hear gunfire. With a shooting range, that will change.”

Other measures that are moving ahead:


A host of House and Senate bills would tackle rapid ohia death, including funding of $200,000 for DLNR to report on causes of the fast-spreading virus and potential control measures. The bills have broad support as other islands worry about the prospect of the disease spreading to their own forests.

A bill to provide tax credits for cesspool conversions in low-income households, and measures to rebuild depleted staff at the state Department of Health Vector Control Branch have progressed. However, a bill to require the state auditor to probe the DOH response to the dengue outbreak on the Big Island has been deferred by the House Committee on Health.

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