Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 |
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LIHU‘E — The Alekoko “Menehune” Fishpond has been on the market for $3 million for about a month.
Thursday, the county’s Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund Commission moved in support of the acquisition of the fishpond with overwhelming support from residents and community stakeholders.
This advisory committee only has the authority to recommend and prioritize items on the preservation list, which the fishpond has been on since 2015. Only the Kaua‘i County Council can authorize the acquisition through a money bill.
All of this is at the ask of nonprofits Malama Hule‘ia and the Trust for Public Land, a land-conservation organization that works with local community groups to acquire and protect lands.
Jan TenBruggencate of Malama Hule‘ia told the commission that immediate action is necessary because the fishpond going on the market forces the nonprofits to compete publicly for the land.
As a nonprofit, TPL can only pay appraised value. The organization is currently in the process of executing a contract, but the results are about a month away. For this transaction, TPL would technically be the buyer and produce a deed with Malama Hule‘ia, a steward of the land.
Malama Hule‘ia has leased a portion of the land over the last three years from owners Okada Trucking, removing mangrove, restoring the wetlands and engaging with volunteers and schools through educational programs.
TPL has been in discussion with the owners, who have indicated they’d be willing to sell for conservation if the price is right.
There is approximately $2.5 million in the county land-acquisition fund, and an estimated $780,000 to come in next fiscal year, which begins in July, the county reported in January. Both nonprofits have been working together to acquire the land and apply for additional sources of funding at county, state and federal levels.
Aloha ‘Aina Project Manager Reyna Ramolete Hayashi of TPL said the support to protect the fishpond was overwhelming.
“Hundreds of people sent in heartfelt letters and written testimonies. Over 4,000 people signed our statement of support online,” Ramolete Hayashi said. “I’ve never seen anything like it, and it really speaks to the impact Alekoko has had on the hearts and minds of this community.”
This special commission meeting Thursday was the first in almost a year, as the volunteer body has been on hiatus due to COVID-19 mandates.
Thursday’s meeting was physically closed to the public in accordance with Gov. David Ige’s suspension of the state’s sunshine law, and was at times difficult to hear, as noted by Chair Nancy Kanna, who attended the meeting remotely.
The unanimous recommendation by the commission will be sent to the council. Council Vice Chair Mason Chock, a co-founding member of Malama Hule‘ia, and Councilmember Luke Evslin, resigned from their seats on the board of the nonprofit and offered recusals on council discussions regarding the fishpond.
TPL is anticipating to go before the council requesting the full purchase price.
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