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Rail 'programmatic' agreement OK'd


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POSTED: Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The City Council has given its approval for the city to sign an agreement with the federal Department of Transportation over how to address the discovery of burials and other cultural artifacts during the building of the $5.3 billion rail transit project.

The “;programmatic agreement”; is required by federal law for such projects that might disturb cultural or historic sites.

Council members approved the resolution 5-4, with members Romy Cachola, Donovan Dela Cruz, Charles Djou and Ann Kobayashi in opposition.

Opponents cited concerns raised by the Oahu Island Burial Council—one of four preservation groups that served as consultants to the proposed agreement—that urged the Council to delay a vote to allow time to work out language in the proposal.

The Burial Council is concerned over the route of the rail project, saying it is likely to disturb archaeological sites.

“;I believe that by passing it, when we know that this agreement is incomplete, is not doing justice—especially to the Hawaiians,”; Cachola said.

But Councilman Gary Okino, Transportation Committee chairman, argued against any delay, noting that the proposed agreement is “;so comprehensive it will cover any contingencies that will come up.”;

“;What's important here is any delay will cost the project money—it will delay the project further,”; Okino said. “;Delaying this project is absolutely not necessary. All of the protections are there.”;

Mayor Mufi Hannemann aims to break ground for the first phase of the rail project in December. The signing of the programmatic agreement is required before the final environmental impact statement can be released.