LIHUE — Lawmakers will be looking at new rules to help mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts in the upcoming session, a list of which Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources is developing.
“A lot of legislators are prepared to deal with the sunscreen and reefs, there was some (legislation on the table) last year,” said Bruce Anderson, DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources administrator.
DLNR is looking at a tiered approach to developing new rules, with some statewide laws and some community-based initiatives to protect reefs and forests, and to lessen the impacts of climate change.
Protection of underwater herbivores in managed areas is one option under consideration.
“We are working on a plan and hope to have it finalized by November,” Anderson said.
DLNR will be asking for more money, as increased preservation of forest and reef resources will require a bigger chunk of change.
“The Sea Level Rise report just came out. It’s intended to guide (lawmakers) and it’ll take a while to absorb,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case. “The base budget will be a key point.”
Additional staff members, like water quality monitoring coordinators, will most likely be one of the asks, according to Anderson, as well as funding for better spacial mapping.
Reforestation is another way DLNR is planning to mitigate climate change effects, and David Smith, DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife administrator said his division will be approaching the Legislature for funding for that project statewide.
On Kauai, DOFAW’s landscape initiatives are aimed at animal control and fire rehabilitation, as well as working with Kauai Island Utility Cooperative and the biomass fuel plant to produce clean energy.
“At top capacity, that plant has the capability of providing 30 percent of the island’s energy renewably,” Smith said.
Eucalyptus and albezia are the trees targeted for the biofuel plant. Another project in Kokee is replacing old eucalyptus with koa trees and reforestation efforts are ongoing in the areas where fires have wiped out parts of the forest in Kokee.
DLNR panelists also highlighted the recently released Hawaii Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report, which is the product of three years’ work by the Hawaii Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee.
The report is a testament to the state’s acknowledgement of climate change in general, Case said, as well as a look at current impacts and future adjustments and mitigations to deal with effects of climate change.
It identifies areas statewide where sea level rise is set to cause flooding through the end of the century, and incorporates some anticipated impacts of sea level rise, such as the need to move structures and roads from coastlines.
“Now that we have this document, this is an opportunity for everybody to get informed and on board,” said Sam Lemmo, DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands administrator.
According to the report, more than 900 structures will be chronically flooded by the 3.2 feet of sea level rise anticipated in the next century. More than 5,760 acres of land would be affected, and 6.5 miles of Kauai’s coastal roads would be impacted.
Kilauea, Ke’e and Polihale, as well as Nawiliwili will all be underwater after 3.2 feet of sea level rise, according to the report, and the land where Coco Palms sits will be a marshland.
In Wailua, the report illustrates a potential for five feet of passive flooding.
Recommendations for Kauai that come out of the report include amending State Legacy Lands Act to set aside funding for preservation of coastal lands and the enablement of legacy beaches.
Shoreline conservation and restoration, expansion of state, county and national parks and wildlife refuges, and the protection of nearshore water quality are also priorities in the report for Kauai.
With the release of the sea level report, conversations about climate change among Hawaii officials are ramping up, according to DLNR officials, and the goal is to keep the momentum moving.
“We expect to meet quarterly to continue the conversations, refine and disseminate the scientific research and predictions we get on climate change impacts, and develop the necessary plans and strategies to guide how Hawaii adapts to what we know will happen in the future,” Case said.
She continued: “We’re at the red flag stage now: we know it’s coming and we want to do everything humanly possible to avoid getting to the warning stage before it’s too late.”