More than a year after American Safari Cruises first docked at Kaunakakai Harbor, the community organization, Aha Kiole o Molokai, has reached an understanding with the State of Hawaii on how to best manage a limited number of cruise ship visits.
Bill Aila, chairman of the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, along with Department of Transportation Harbor Division Deputy Randy Grune, attended an Aha Kiole meeting Friday at the Kulana ‘Oiwi Center. A deputy from the State Attorney Generals Office was in attendance to help sort out legal issues.
Based on the March 11 published results of its surveys and moku (district) meetings, Aha Kiole found that a majority of Molokai residents are willing to accept visits from tourist cruise ships as long as there are “controls.” In what the Aha Kiole called a “fair and inclusive process,” 56 percent voted for controls over cruise ships. This was based on the input of 326 people over five moku meetings.
With ASC cruise boats expected to return this month, Friday’s meeting helped Aha Kiole and the DLNR and DOT reach an understanding. Because the 36-passenger ASC ship, the Safari Explorer, is considered a “passenger ship,” its activity is federally regulated and can therefore freely navigate between ports. As a commercial pier Kaunakakai Harbor cannot be regulated under the rules for small boat harbors.
Aila reminded all the Aha Kiole members that any rules or regulations the DLNR would consider needs to apply to all vessels, including the Molokai Princess ferry, which also brings tourists to Molokai. Aila also asked the group if it had any interest in regulating airplane traffic, which it didn’t.
Kamalu Poepoe, the po’o alaka’i (second in charge) for the Aha Kiole, led the Nov. 2 meeting. She expressed a desire to work within the upcoming Molokai Community Plan update to limit development and commerce at the harbor. “How can we do this process in a way the community wants,” explained Poepoe.
Aila discussed the process for creating specific rules to regulate activity at the harbor. A new rule can pass only if it is needed to protect against negative impacts caused by the boats. It would also have to go through a review and public hearing process.
One area of restriction discussed was how to control boat traffic to Mo’omomi or any part of Molokai’s north shore. Aila suggested creating a list of activities that would be allowed on the north shore, rather than a list of prohibitions.
Poepoe asked about turning the north shore into a designated preservation area to help restrict boat activity. She said this would be a rule change the Aha Kiole would like to pursue.
Aila recommended the creation of a Molokai trade organization that would offer local vendors for commercial activity. “We can’t enforce this but we can influence people with a trade group,” said Aila.
Walter Ritte suggested creating harbor rules that would apply to ports that serve less than 10,000 people. In this way, only Molokai and Lanai would be affected by the regulations.
Most of the meeting was used to review an Aha Kiole document on this issue. After careful review, the DLNR and DOT representatives said they could support the language of the letter intended for publication in the Molokai Dispatch.
Community findings revisited (Part 1)
Aha Kiole O Molokai News Release
American Safari Cruises will begin visiting Molokai again beginning in November. In the March 14, 2012 issue of the Dispatch, the Aha Kiole presented its findings from a public survey and moku meetings on ASC and the cruise tour industry on Molokai. The majority of respondents indicated they wanted to protect the island as well as provide some economic opportunity through managed commerce.
The Aha Kiole’s kuleana is to protect and preserve Molokai resources and, to that end, the Aha is pursuing a long-term course to prevent larger cruise vessels from operating on Molokai. Cruise tour vessels with smaller passenger loads would be suitable; their size would be limited to those that do not adversely impact ocean or island resources.
Last year’s explosive reaction to the issue was caused by not first having a community forum to garner broader local input. There was both support and opposition, but there was no protocol for community dialogue. There is a clear need for such a protocol, and while the issue became aggravated between certain groups, polling each of the island’s six moku showed that the majority of respondents are in favor of allowing limited cruise tour commerce.
By setting in place a process of providing residents from each moku and the island at large with the opportunity to express their concerns and wishes, the Aha Kiole hopes to begin an acceptable protocol for community input, and to encourage behavior that is collaborative and inclusive of all residents’ views.
As part of the Aha Kiole o Molokai’s commitment to the community, we brought our survey comments to the attention of the Department of Land and Natural resources Chairman Bill Aila, as well as DOT Harbor Division Deputy Randy Grune, so that they could respond to the concerns. Both agreed that, within the law, they will do as much as they can to help Molokai.
While there were other individual comments, the ones below represent those most often repeated. They were gathered directly from moku meetings and the survey, and do not represent the position of the Aha Kiole, which is intended to be neutral.
DLNR/DOT responses to community concerns
Survey results suggested no visits to Mo’omomi for those coming on cruise vessels. Mo’omomi is under the jurisdiction of DHHL and The Nature Conservancy. The DLNR is willing to try to limit related ocean uses at Mo’omomi and would look at rule-making, which takes eight months to a year. A three-mile zone is within the state’s jurisdiction.
Regarding limiting passengers to no more that two full-size vans per visit (30 people per boat) or no more than one boat will visit Molokai per week (total of 52 visits per year), the cruise ship is coming to Molokai as a “passenger boats.” Because it is a federally regulated activity, boats have the freedom to navigate and come into ports between islands for commerce and emergencies. If the cruise ship was entering a small boat harbor, then it would be subject to small boat harbor rules. Under rules for small boat harbors, reasonable limits can be imposed on visits. But because this is a commercial pier at Kaunakakai, the rules may differ.
Randy Grune: One concern is that if we were to amend the rules for Molokai, we would have to undergo a lengthy rulemaking/rule changing process that involves lengthy public hearing requirements to gather public comments. We need to research the process further to be sure and talk story with the experts on the legal parameters we need to work within.
Bill Aila: Another route is to look at working toward legislative changes to statutory law in addition to amending the administrative rules. While these processes will take some time, we can at least begin the dialogue now.
Aha Kiole input: This is the area in which we can protect our island from being overwhelmed by the industry. Our interest is in allowing for a reasonable amount of commerce that does not deplete the natural resources.
Survey results suggested kapu zones for Kaulukukui o Lanikaula and ‘Ili’iliopae. The State Historic Preservation Division has rules that insure that no one alters or damages cultural and significant historic sites (e.g. wahi pana) that are registered or eligible for registration on the State Historic Sites Registry. For wahi pana located on private lands, the state can work cooperatively with landowners.
Aha Kiole input: Other state and county permits and land use designations also provide some regulatory limits. Under the Molokai Community Plan, which is also part of the Maui County General Plan, all commercial activity is prohibited on Molokai’s East End — except through a special use permit approved by the Molokai Planning Commission, for example, Mana’e Goods and Grinds.
To be continued …