Feb 01, 2011

Kalahui Hawaii: Rail Project Might Endanger Native Heritage

A native group has filled an official complaint against a railway line project as the plan has not undergone the complete archaeological survey prescribed by law, and might therefore cause damage to the cultural and historical heritage of Hawaiians.

Below is an article published by KHON 2


A lawsuit filed Monday [31 January 2011] afternoon in Honolulu Circuit Court hopes to stop construction of the city’s $5.5 billion rail project.

The complaint filed by Paulette Ka’anohiokalani Kaleikini claims both the city and state failed to perform a complete archeological survey of native Hawaiian remains, or iwi, along the entire 20 mile rail line as required by state law.

Kaleikini is being represented by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving the customs and practices of Hawaii’s indigenous people.

In the lawsuit attorneys David Kimo Frankel and Ashley Obrey list a total of eleven defendants including the City andCounty of Honolulu, the City Council, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle and Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

The crux of the complaint alleges officials at every level of state and city government failed to follow Hawaii Revised Statute 6E-42, which says a complete archeological survey must be done before a project is approved for construction. 

“By failing to ensure preparation and review of an archeological inventory survey along the entire transit corridor, the City and State Defendants failed to give full consideration of the impact of the Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor Project on iwi and cultural and historic values prior to decisionmaking,” the lawsuit alleges.

In a press conference at the footsteps of Honolulu Hale Monday former democratic Gov. Ben Cayetano and League of Women Voters president Pearl Johnson accused the city of fast tracking the rail project with little regard to the consequences of such an expedited process.

“We object to heavy rail and hope the new City Council will slow down and engage in some clear headed thinking,” said Johnson, who read a statement on behalf of ten concerned groups.

The groups represented by Johnson include the following:

Advocates for Consumer Rights, Friends of Makakilo, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, Hoa’aina o Hawaiimiloa from Leeward Community College, Donors of win Park, The League of Women Voters-Honolulu, Life of the Land, Save Oahu Farmland Alliance, The Outdoor Circle and Residents Along The Rail.

The harshest criticism of the rail project during the press conference came from Cayetano, who said the ambitious plan could end up being a larger version of the H3 Freeway, which had to be moved from Moanalua Valley because of native Hawaiian burial sites.

“In the end what was supposed to cost $70 million for that H3 highway ended up costing about $1.1 billion dollars,” said Cayetano.

The former governor also blasted Mayor Carlisle for hurrying construction of the rail project and not being completely upfront with Honolulu residents about the possibility of cost overruns.

"Transparency went out the window the moment he was sworn-in because now he talks about fast tracking,” said Cayetano, who endorsed Carlisle for mayor.  “I was very, very disappointed,” he added.  “I thought he would be a reasonable man…I was mistaken.”

Cayetano pointed to a Federal Transit Administration probability report obtained by rail critic Cliff Slater that showed the project had a ten percent chance of finishing under budget and a fifty percent chance of coming in at $7.2 billion.

Cayetano also doubted the city would be awarded $1.55 billion in federal monies to help pay for construction.

“No city the size of Honolulu has received more than half a billion dollars,” he said. 

“Maybe when the democrats controlled both houses (of Congress) $1.5 billion might have been something that's feasible or possible - I don't think today it will be.”

However in a late afternoon press availability Carlisle dismissed Cayetano’s concerns as old hat and characterized the former governor as a “bus guy.”

“None of the statements Gov. Cayetano made are things we haven't heard in the past already, so this is really frankly nothing new,” said Carlisle.

The mayor said he was confident Congress would still provide the city $1.55 billion in mass transit funding and didn’t seem overly unconcerned about the lawsuit filed in Circuit Court.

“Our brief and very cursory look at (the lawsuit) suggests that these are not new issues,” said Carlisle.

“We are absolutely one hundred percent satisfied that we've followed all the laws that have been necessary to be abided with and that we are confident that we can successfully address these arguments in court.”

City spokeswoman Louise Kim-McCoy pointed to 900 meetings, presentations and public hearings as well as an additional 483 neighborhood board meetings as clear evidence the city has been upfront with its citizens about the controversial rail project.

Meanwhile the complaint filed by Kaleikini in Circuit Court demands immediate relief, which includes the following:

-   That a complete archaeological inventory survey be prepared prior to commencement of the rail project

- That the Environmental Impact Statement recently signed by Gov. Abercrombie be declared   unacceptable.

-   That all state or county permits be voided.

-   That any construction, ground disturbance and land alteration related to the construction of   rail be stopped.