Questions arise over expansion plan

LIHUE — The potential expansion of Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Monument was the main concern at Wednesday evening’s Kauai Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees meeting.

Puanani Rogers, from Kealia, said when it comes to the potential marine monument expansion, she thinks there’s too much misinformation floating around in the community.

“This is the worst thing, it’s dividing the community, family against family and friend against friend,” Rogers said.

Because of that, she said she has reservations against supporting the expansion proposal, which is being evaluated by the federal Council for Environmental Equality, according to OHA chief executive officer, Kamana‘opono Crabbe.

Rogers said she’s also concerned that the military is exempt from the rules of the monument.

The proposal calls for the expansion of the monument on all sides except the southeast boundary, avoiding the islands of Kauai and Ni’ihau as well the Middle Banks fishing area.

If President Barack Obama approves it, the proposal would establish the largest protected marine area in the world.

The bid for Native Hawaiian sovereignty and OHA’s work with the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Homeland Security were also part of the talks during the meeting at Wilcox Elementary School attended by about 70 people.

Keola Lindsey, OHA’s Papahanaumokuakea program manager, took the microphone to explain the monument expansion proposition, particularly in light of the potential OHA management.

“This is making sure our people’s voices are heard,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey explained the feedback received from the Obama Administration’s recent meetings has been compiled and given to presidential advisers. The rest of the timeline is up to the Obama Administration.

Several speakers posed a scenario of approval of the expansion without OHA being elevated to co-trustee status and their concerns with that scenario, but Lindsey said that is “unlikely.”

“They’d be ignoring an avalanche of input on the subject,” Lindsey said. “That they would expand without our input is highly unlikely.”

Dan Ahuna, Kauai’s OHA Trustee, said the board made its conditional support of the expansion clear to the Obama Administration.

“I believe this expansion is a no-brainer,” Ahuna said. “It’s a good thing for OHA to move in that direction (increased management authority).”

Rogers said she doesn’t think the monument expansion should go through until the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom is decided in the Swiss Federal Supreme Court.

Currently the matter is in the court’s Criminal Law section under review.

“Press on the brakes until we get a response from the Swiss Criminal Court,” Rogers said.

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