Testimony urging House committee to preserve Kaneohe Bay Regional Council

Colleen Sanders

The following is testimony from Bob Gould regarding SB2340 and the Kaneohe Bay Regional Council:

Dear Members of the Committee on Water, Land & Ocean Resources:

I understand that SB2340 SD1 is about to cross over to the house.  Your committee would not hear the companion bill, HB 2175, but I hope you will approve and pass out the Senate version.

The Kaneohe Bay Regional Council was established pursuant to the recommendations of the Kaneohe Bay Master Plan.  I was a member of the Kaneohe Bay Master Plan Task Force, which held an exhaustive series of meetings and hearings with a tremendous amount of community and government support.  We found that while we could make recommendations for actions that needed to be done, there was (and is) a need for a watchdog community agency to oversee the implementation of the provisions of the Master Plan and provide for continuing community input and make recommendations for changes to the Master Plan that might become necessary over the years.

In 1998 Governor Cayetano signed HB967 into law, making the Kaneohe Regional Council permanent.  Aided by Senator Mike McCartney and others, my wife, as then chairman of the Council, spent two years of her life getting that bill passed by both chambers and signed by the governor, then worked on getting the commercial operators, fishing community, boaters, and science community at Coconut Island all working together.  Just because the major problems at that time were mostly worked out, the Council shouldn’t be eliminated. We still need to continue to protect the Bay and try to prod DLNR into doing its job as now mandated by law.

In 1999, as mandated by that law, the Kaneohe Bay Master Plan was reviewed by the Long Range Planning Committee of the Kaneohe Bay Regional Council.  I was a member of the Long Range Planning Committee, and we held numerous public meetings during the Spring of 1999 with input from various groups in the community to determine if any changes to the Master Plan were appropriate.  For the most part the Master Plan was still a perfectly valid document, even 8 years after its adoption.  We did recommend a few very minor changes, but the major corpus did not need modification.

Last year ACT 068 (09) HB586 HD1 SD1 CD1 was passed somewhat under the radar; most of us were unaware of what was happening.  That law sunsets the Kaneohe Bay Regional Council as of July of 2010.  While the bill does not list its author, I believe it was introduced by Representative Ito, who is quoted as saying that the Kaneohe Bay Regional Council had finished its job once it wrote the Kaneohe Bay Master Plan.  If that quote is accurate, the statement is incorrect.  The Kaneohe Bay Master plan recommended the creation of a Kaneohe Bay Regional Council, not the other way around.  If the quote is incorrect and Representative Ito meant that the Kaneohe Bay Regional Council had completed its job when it reviewed (by means of the Long Range Planning Committee) the Kaneohe Bay Master Plan and recommended some changes, that impression is also incorrect.  The Kaneohe Bay Master Plan envisioned a permanent Kaneohe Bay Regional Council to act as an ongoing community planning organization for the Bay, and in any event, the job is a long way from being finished.  Even after 18 years, the rules envisioned by the Kaneohe Bay Master Plan have not been implemented by the DLNR.  We on the Kaneohe Bay Task Force had some fears that our report would be one more task force report that would be put on the shelf and forgotten, and that is the reason we recommended the establishment of the Kaneohe Bay Regional Council; to be a continuing advocate for the Master Plan and ensure its ongoing validity and implementation.  Even with the Regional Council in place, the DLNR has managed to drag its feet for 18 years in implementation of many of the rules recommended by the original Task Force in the Kaneohe Bay Master Plan and as modified by the Long Range Planning Committee of the Kaneohe Bay Regional Council 8 years later.

Over the years, frustration over the unwillingness of DLNR to move on many aspects of the Master Plan’s recommendations has caused a decline in attendance at Regional Council meetings, but that does not mean interest does not still exist.  The passage of ACT 068 (09) HB586 HD1 SD1 CD1 was a misguided action that should be reversed by the passage of SB2340.  I would recommend a slight change to the bill, however, as it mandates that the Regional Council meets annually.  I would suggest adding the wording AT LEAST annually, and then letting the Regional Council choose the number, time, and place of meetings as it sees fit.  An annual meeting makes it very difficult to plan agendae and develop plans and recommendations.  There are many ways to reduce costs, even though the DLNR’s estimate of its cost in supporting the Regional Council seems wildly high for 4 meetings a year as has been the case until now.

Kaneohe Bay is still in danger due to inactions and to actions of government.  Siltation from state construction of H-3 greatly damaged the bay and its navigable channels, and that is an ongoing problem that still needs to be addressed.  Only the Regional Council has the clout to pressure for corrections of such problems.  Rules for recreational boating and fishing still need to be implemented by DLNR, and given the difficulty in getting the rules implemented even by the Regional Council, it would seem hopeless that they would ever get implemented without it.  Unless the DLNR is just trying to get the Regional Council out of the picture so that it can make rules as it sees fit without the expert input provided by the public via the Regional Council.

The Kaneohe Bay Regional Council is a shining example of community based management.  It is one of very few, if any, in the state.  Maybe that is why certain people in government don’t like it.  Perhaps they would rather have a free hand to do what they see fit without the bothersome input and opinions of an organized community group that is mandated by law to oversee their actions and a bit of a burr under their belts.

Please pass this bill, which was introduced by our Kaneohe Senator, out of committee and at least let it have a fair hearing in the House.  There will be great suspicion in the community of motives if it is held in committee and not given a fair hearing.

Thank you for your attention.

Bob Gould