(BIVN) – A State Senate bill has been introduced to provide a grant-in-aid to the County of Hawaiʻi to help restore the popular Kahaluʻu Beach Park in Kona.
The bill, SB3380, will enable County to “hire an engineering firm to study, plan, assist, and conduct preliminary design and concept work for a two-phase project to restore the Kahaluu Beach Park,” as long as the County of Hawaiʻi matches the contribution.
Kahalu‘u Beach Park is the top visited beach park in the county of Hawai‘i, recording over four hundred thousand visitors annually, according to the legislation.
Hawaiʻi island senators Dru Kanuha and Laura Acasio are among the introducers of the bill, which states:
Kahalu‘u bay has historically been regarded as a sacred place to native Hawaiians, adorned with heiau, fishponds, and barrier rock walls that provided for better fishing conditions for hunter-gatherers in the area. Due to its historic nature and popularity among visitors, there have been recent efforts by the county of Hawai‘i, in partnership with the Kohala Center’s Kahalu‘u Bay Education Center, to preserve the beach park for future generations through the promotion of reef-friendly practices. The legislature finds that these efforts have greatly benefited Kahalu‘u beach’s ecosystem; however, they do not shield the park from the impacts of global warming.
The legislature further finds that during the 2021 Regular Session, the Senate adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 52, Senate Draft 1, which requested the department of land and natural resources and county of Hawai‘i to collaborate to identify sea level rise at Kahalu‘u bay to avoid further deterioration and damage caused by rising sea levels. The resulting interagency Kahalu‘u bay restoration working group, comprised of state and county officials, as well as community leaders, have been planning for the restoration of Kahalu‘u beach park. However, the legislature believes that the group’s findings warrant a prioritization of Hawai‘i island’s overall coastal planning, as well as the need for a sea level rise study and coastal engineering input to help guide the planning process. The legislature further believes that as a public resource with intergovernmental jurisdictions, the restoration of Kahalu‘u beach park should be a state and county partnership and can serve as a model for the restoration of other public resources throughout the State.
SB3380 appears to target a recent grant to the University of Hawaiʻi from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, as a source of funding for the effort.
“On January 19, 2022, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s school of ocean and earth science and technology announced a seven-year $50,000,000 commitment from Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, which will support various groups within the Hawai‘i institute of marine biology to research the effect of changing ocean conditions, as well as sea-level rise impacts on coastal resilience,” the bill notes. “The legislature finds that this funding source can supplement interagency efforts that require sea-level rise studies and reports to preserve vulnerable sections of the State’s coastline, including at Kahalu‘u bay.”
A news release issued by the University of Hawaiʻi on January 19 says the gift “will fund research and programs that document changing ocean conditions, explore solutions to support healthier ocean ecosystems, enhance coastal resilience from storms and sea-level rise, and tackle challenges to marine organisms ranging from the tiniest corals to the largest predators.”
“This grant opens up new opportunities for accessing the local environment, interfacing with local communities, and increasing our understanding of what’s the best way of managing these precious resources in our uncertain future,” said Interim SOEST Dean Chip Fletcher in a video soundbite provided by the university.
“Hawaiʻi has one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world — and having a deeper understanding of this ecosystem is the key to preserving and protecting it,” said Mark Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan in the news release. “We’re honored to support the University of Hawaiʻi’s conservation efforts, including their trailblazing research on coral reef restoration, the impact of climate change on coastal waters, and other areas related to the health of our oceans.”
“There is no place on Earth better than Hawai‘i to do this work, and no institution better able than UH,” UH President David Lassner said. “We could not be more grateful for the investment of Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg in a better future for all of us and our planet.”
The Senate Committee on Water and Land will hold its first hearing on SB3380 on Monday (January 31) at 1 p.m.