The state Departments of the Attorney General, Transportation and Hawaiian Home Lands issued a joint statement Friday affirming that Maunakea Access Road is legally under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation.
Proper jurisdiction over the access road fell under question earlier this month after Sen. Kai Kahele, D-Hilo, raised the issue at a meeting of the Committee on Hawaiian Affairs, arguing that the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands may not have properly transferred jurisdiction over the road to the Department of Transportation.
The DOT built the access road over DHHL land without permission nearly 50 years ago, and never executed a land transfer in 1995 as part of an agreement to compensate for the misuse of Hawaiian home lands.
The road became a part of the DOT highways system in 2018.
Cedric Duarte, information and community relations officer for DHHL, said Friday that there are still some conditions that have to be met to finalize the transfer of land — in accordance with Act 14, which was passed in 1995 and allows the state to acquire DHHL land through a formal exchange process — but the question of jurisdiction has been resolved to the satisfaction of both DHHL and DOT.
Both DHHL and DOT are working together to ensure that all terms of compensation regarding the transfer are met in full.
“Act 14 was a historic piece of legislation,” said Hawaiian Homes Commission Chair William J. Aila Jr. in a statement Friday. “It resolved long-standing claims associated with the use of Hawaiian home lands.” We remain committed to seeing the completion of the few remaining items under Act 14, including ensuring that compensation for the use of roads and highways crossing DHHL lands has been received in full.”
Duarte said the statement does not mean that the jurisdictional issue can not still be challenged. Kahele did not respond to a request for comment Friday. Attorney General Clare Connors stated Friday that, being a public road operated by the DOT, the current blockade of the access road is unlawful. DOT restricted access to the road in July in preparation for the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
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