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Scheme to Remake Lahaina as Touristy Water Park Advances in Congress
By Andrew Walden @ 5:12 PM :: 2105 Views :: Maui County, Environment, Development, Hawaii History, Land Use, Tourism

Scheme to Remake Lahaina as Touristy Water Park Advances in Congress

by Andrew Walden

With Reps Jill Tokuda and Ed Case leading the way, the US Congress is taking steps to help the tourism industry remake Lahaina into what they hope will be an even better tourist attraction.

According to the Subcommittee hearing announcement: “H.R. 8219 would require the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with state and local partners, to study the suitability and feasibility of designating the town of Lahaina as a National Heritage Area (NHA). A feasibility study is generally the first step of an NHA designation and ensures that the designated area meets the appropriate criteria. Under the NHA Act, studies must assess whether an area’s resources reflect aspects of American heritage, whether an area would benefit from public-private management, and which entities would be capable of working together to support the proposed heritage area.”

In reality, the plan is to use eminent domain to seize private property and remake Lahaina into a water-oriented tourist attraction modeled vaguely on the pre-plantation, pre-water-diversion 1820s-1840s when Lahaina was capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Says who?

Civil Beat, June 28, 2024 reports: “One of Lahaina’s most prominent cultural leaders, Keeaumoku Kapu, also submitted written testimony in support of the bill.  The fires provide a new opportunity to rebuild and restore Lahaina in a way that reflects its rich history and cultural heritage, Kapu said.  The community has rallied around the restoration of Moku‘ula, considered by many Hawaiians to be a sacred island, once surrounded by the freshwater pond Loko o Mokuhinia, formerly the site of King Kamehameha III’s royal palace, according to Kapu.”

The burned Lahaina Town was shaped by the plantation era and adapted to tourism.  The remade Lahaina will be a tourist-oriented animation of the pre-plantation era when the economy was based on slaughtering lots of whales for oil from their blubber. 

(In 1850 the Hawaiian Kingdom capital shifted to Honolulu to chase the lucrative resupply of Gold Rush ships heading to San Francisco after rounding Cape Horn.  The Lahaina whaling era ended suddenly after John D Rockefeller stepped in to save the whales, but that’s another story.) 

The tourism remake requires massive water diversion away from plantation-era ditches to remake ‘Loko o Mokuhinia.’  The resulting lack of water is already being used to block construction of affordable housing in and around the burn zone.

Without acknowledging that it is acting to support this touristy Water World remake of Lahaina, the Hawaii Department of Education is attempting to abandon the site of burned-down Kamehameha III Elementary School.

But what about private property owners?  How many of them will lose their land via eminent domain to make way for this vision of Lahaina’s tourist tomorrow?

EE News June 28, 2024, reports: “A key Republican said he wants to make sure legislation doesn’t hurt development or property rights.”

Introduced by Tokuda, May 1, 2024, with seven cosponsors, the Federal Lands Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee heard testimony on H.R. 8219, June 27, 2024.  No vote is yet scheduled.

---30---

Text, Status: H.R.8219 - Lahaina National Heritage Area Act

May 2, 2024: Tokuda: Make Lahaina Federally Controlled 'National Heritage Area'

May 23, 2024; DoE Begins Process of Convincing Lahaina Community to Accept School Relocation Plan 

SA: Off the news: Lahaina up as national heritage area? | Honolulu Star-Advertiser 

HNN: In Hawaii and DC, a growing campaign seeks to restore Lahaina’s precious wetlands 

HNN: Members of Congress are bringing power and money to the once-impossible dream of restoring natural s (hawaiinewsnow.com)

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