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Superferry, burials focus of DLNR chair visit

Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairperson Laura Thielen, a member of Gov. Linda Lingle’s cabinet, said her department’s role in supervising the Superferry will continue beyond the conclusion of the Oversight Task Force at the end of the calendar year during an update briefing to the governor’s Kaua‘i Community Advisory Council on Thursday and in an interview with The Garden Island yesterday.

“DOCARE (the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement) is going to continue to do periodic monitoring of the Superferry inspections. … There may be seasonal variations on what’s periodic, or it may change based on if there is a really compelling need for a concentrated enforcement effort,” Thielen said. “We need to be taking a look at all forms of inter-island transportation. … I’m hoping that this conversation broadens from just talking about Superferry.

“People are focusing on issues like invasive species, I think the unspoken thing is that a lot more O‘ahu people are going to come over here, a lot of other people are going to come over here, and we’ve had so much growth and we don’t want our lifestyle changed. And that’s a whole separate issue, but that’s why people are focusing on Superferry. It’s a different kind of transportation and they’re afraid it’s going to bring a different volume of people just to add to the congestion.”

Not all were convinced that Superferry has been unfairly isolated.

“The issue with the Superferry is inspections. Things are getting through, and there are not sufficient inspections at this point,” said Advisory Council member Maka‘ala Ma‘aumoana. “Personally, I’m not satisfied that having the fox guard the henhouse is a good idea here. If they want to come to Kaua‘i, they need to show us that they can do it correctly on Maui. And I’m not hearing good things.”

Thielen also fielded questions during public testimony from Sandra Herndon, Puanani Rodgers, Keone Kealoha and Elaine Dunbar regarding a recent decision by 5th Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe forcing the State Historic Preservation Division, which falls under DLNR, to confer with the Kaua‘i-Ni‘ihau Burial Council regarding 30 iwi on a controversial Wainiha construction site.

“My impression of what’s happened is that this particular site has incited a lot of emotions. People believe the law does more than it does. People were shocked that ‘preserve in place’ ended up resulting in a build on top. So there’s been a real reaction against that,” Thielen said. “But what Nancy did in this situation is no different than what the Historic Preservation Division has done normally and what other divisions within DLNR do when they interact with the Land Board.”

Watanabe’s decision is seen as a sharp rebuke of SHPD Kaua‘i Archaeologist Nancy McMahon and Deputy Attorney General Vince Kanemoto. When asked yesterday if McMahon erred at all in her handling of the situation, Thielen paused momentarily before answering.

“I would say that Ms. McMahon has been trying to work within the process. She and the Deputy AG (Kanemoto) were trying their best to inform the (Burial) Council what that decision meant, because they knew what that decision meant,” Thielen said. “I can understand why people would walk out of that room confused. I’m not saying that the council members are misrepresenting anything, but at the same time, people need to respect that neither was Nancy. She was there and trying to communicate that stuff to the council.”

Thielen later answered questions regarding commercial use of state land by private entities, demarcations of jurisdiction between state and county beaches, air tourism, and other issues affecting Kaua‘i residents.

“DLNR touches a lot of lives on the Neighbor Islands,” Thielen said yesterday, “and I think it’s important in between sessions to get out as much as possible to see our different areas, meet community groups, work with the staff locally, on-island, to understand the projects that they have and how they’re interacting with the community.”

Members of the Advisory Council said Thielen did an admirable job of addressing the wide range of concerns.

“I think she did well,” said non-voting member Laurie Yoshida, Gov. Lingle’s Kaua‘i Liaison. “Although she can’t necessarily give everyone the answers they want to hear, she explained how things work at DLNR.”

“We appreciate this level of administration coming to Kaua‘i. The process you heard last night is as good as it gets. That’s how government should work,” said Ma‘aumoana. “She understands that the community expects to be listened to.”

Last night, Thielen was scheduled to conduct lease negotiations with current Koke‘e cabin revocable permit-holders. She said that of the some 80 cabins, she expected only 10 leases to not be renewed. The unleased cabins will likely be auctioned off in January.

• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or via e-mail at mlevine@kauaipubco.com

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