(BIVN) – After an, at times tense, hearing on Oahu in which testifiers expressed nearly universal opposition to Senate Bill 3090, the proposed law was advanced with sweeping changes.
A decision was made two days after the February 12 joint Senate Committee on Higher Education and Water and Land to recommend SB3090 be passed with amendments.
Hilo Senator Kai Kahele, who asked most of the questions during Monday’s hearing, chairs the Higher Education committee.
The bill will overturn the current, University of Hawaii-based management of the mountain, and replace it with a new Mauna Kea Management Authority.
In response to the testimony, Kahele reports there were changes to the bill. The committee reduced the composition of the proposed board from nine to seven seats and moved its administrative attachment from the Office of the Governor to the Department of Accounting and General Services.
Kahele says further amendments include:
- Requiring four seats to be comprised of Hawaii island residents
- Capping terms of service to two, four-year terms
- Staggering of terms to ensure continuity between appointments
- All seven members shall be appointed by governor
- Two cultural seats to be selected by governor from a list from OHA (same as island burial councils)
- Each seat must be appointed according the following criteria:
1. Astronomy expert, not currently employed of an astronomy facility or IFA
2. Land management expert
3. Business expertise – real estate, property appraising, accounting, finance, economics, and/or innovation
4. Business expertise – real estate, property appraising, accounting, finance, economics, and/or innovation
5. Environmental expert
6. Cultural – practitioner or lineal descendant
7. Cultural – expert on traditional and customary practices or Hawaiian history
Kahele reports the following changes to the propose board’s authority, responsibilities and restrictions:
- Remove requirement for an Executive Director
- Allows authority to set up advisory committees
- Requires authority to establish policies that allows reasonable access for traditional and customary rights purposes, remove specificity to business hours
- Requires consultation with OHA to ensure protection of traditional and customary rights
- Reinforces the applicability of conservation district rules and coordinating rights to a contested case under those rules
- Reinforces authority’s inability to sell or exchange Mauna Kea lands, including remnants
- Requires the comprehensive management plan (CMP) to include benchmarks for implementation of CMP action items that have not been completed, especially items that should have been completed within 1-3 years of the acceptance of the CMP Implementation plan.
- Requires annual reporting and updates to the legislature for dispositions, the status of administrative rules, and implementation of management plans
- Ensures the total combined footprint of all structures, buildings, telescopes shall not exceed the footprint as of December 31, 2031
The committee inserted a blank appropriation to facilitate the Board’s efforts and inserted a defective date of December 31, 2033
“Your Committees find that Mauna Kea is the most significant cultural and astronomical site in the world,” the standing committee report, published after the hearing, states. “The summit region of Mauna Kea is a spiritual and special place of significance that is home to cultural landscapes, fragile alpine habitats, historical and archaeological treasures, as well as endemic species found nowhere else on the planet. Since 1998, four audits by the State Auditor have been critical of the management, stewardship, and protection of Mauna Kea. Although significant changes have occurred on Mauna Kea since the 1998 audit, negative experiences over the past fifty years have eroded public confidence and demonstrated the critical need for fresh leadership centered on a new organizational structure, management system, and procedures.”
“Your Committees further find that there is a clear need for one entity to serve as a single focal point of management, responsibility, communication, and enforcement regarding Mauna Kea. This new entity will increase the accountability of all tenants on Mauna Kea and will ensure that each tenant is aware of its obligations and responsibilities. This entity will also provide the necessary stewardship for the sustainable use of Mauna Kea and the proper generation of revenue from that use. This entity will be headquartered on the island of Hawaii and will be recognized by the general public and the State as the single point of contact for Mauna Kea’s summit region,” the report continues.
The bill will now head to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, of which Sen. Kahele is also a member.