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US to Transfer Federal ‘Ewa Beach Property for Hawaiian Home Lands

Pacific Tsunami Warning Center Ewa Beach
DEPARTMENT OF HAWAIIAN HOME LANDS
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Former Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) site near the end of Fort Weaver Road in Ewa Beach

The U.S. Interior Department announced the transfer of 80 acres of land on Oʻahu to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for the development of homesteads for Native Hawaiians—an attempt to make good on a decades-old agreement to compensate Native Hawaiians for the loss of hundreds of acres of land initially set aside for homesteading.

The land parcel in ‘Ewa Beach is being transferred to the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust with the potential to develop up to 400 homestead lots for Native Hawaiian beneficiaries.

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American woman to lead a U.S. Cabinet agency, called the move a “big step” toward the administration’s commitment to reconciliation with the Native Hawaiian community.

"To make this announcement—yes, it's a happy day but it's also a sad day because we remember the tragedies that befell the Native Hawaiians throughout a tumultuous history," she said.

"Since that time, our country has learned a great deal, and now we are in an era where we recognize the importance of healing the generational trauma that has caused pain and heartache."
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland

The transfer helps fulfill the terms of the Hawaiian Home Lands Recovery Act, a settlement agreement authorized by Congress in 1995 to make up for the federal government’s use of 1,500 acres of Hawaiian Home Lands for purposes other than Hawaiian homesteading.

So far, about 900 acres of federal land have been transferred to DHHL under the Act, but none have been suitable for homestead development until now, says U.S. Senator Brian Schatz.

"Because it's located on Oʻahu, the island with the greatest demand for homesteads but with the fewest overall, this transfer is a significant step towards righting past wrongs perpetrated by the federal government," he said.

There are currently more than 28,000 Native Hawaiians on the DHHL waitlist, with more than 10,800 of those waiting for a homestead on Oʻahu.

Former Hawaiian Homes Commissioner Mike Kahikina is cautiously optimistic about the deal, saying affordability will be key.

"All of that we need. I mean what can I say to that? Yes, it's going be opportunity. But in order to qualify you have to have the money to qualify and build and pay the mortgage. That’s what I see," Kahikina said.

The ʻEwa property at the end of Fort Weaver Road includes the site of the former NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

There is no timeline yet on when the land will be available for homesteading, but a DHHL spokesman says its close proximity to existing infrastructure such as roads, water, and electricity will allow the agency to more quickly in awarding those lots.

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