State lawmakers consider more than $500,000 for Kahoʻolawe restoration efforts
Two state Senate committees advanced legislation Tuesday to appropriate more than half a million dollars for restoration efforts on the island of Kahoʻolawe.
Michael Nahoʻopiʻi, executive director of the commission, says the organization is accustomed to doing more with less when it comes to state funding.
The measure would invest another $527,000 into the group's work for fiscal year 2023.
"The key thing for us in this bill is the two extra bodies. You know we have a staff of 14, not only are we managing the land, the ocean, we run a volunteer program, we run our own boat operation, we have our own patrols. I think a lot of you have seen our outreach efforts. We do it with just 14 people," Nahoʻopiʻi said.
The commission took over stewardship of the island in 2004, when the U.S. Navy pulled out after about 50 years of live-fire training and bombing practice on the island.
The commission was initially funded by a dwindling trust fund set up by the federal government, but that wasn’t enough to continue long-term restoration efforts on Kahoʻolawe.
For example, Nahoʻopiʻi says dealing with unexploded ordnance remains a challenge for the group when it lost funding for an ordnance specialist position during the COVID crisis.
"I'm lucky my basecamp manager is also trained. I have like 15 to 20 years of experience with ordnance. I do what I can do, but I’m kind of worried about the future when I’m finally gone from the island," he told Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
The Senate Hawaiian Affairs and Water and Land Committees voted unanimously to approve HB1577. The measure now awaits a hearing before the Ways and Means Committee.