Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

Ceded land
survey to cost
$19 million

The inventory of ceded lands
would take four years, says
the state auditor

By Pat Omandam

It will cost about $19 million and take about four years to do a comprehensive inventory of the state's ceded or public trust lands, says state Auditor Marion M. Higa.

In a progress report released yesterday to the governor and state Legislature, Higa said the two-phase project will involve several state agencies, including the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The lack of an accurate ceded-lands inventory -- state figures put the public land trust at 1.8 million acres statewide -- was one reason negotiations between the state and OHA broke down.

Both sides are fighting over how much OHA should be paid for past-due revenues from certain public trust lands.

The dispute is before the Hawaii Supreme Court, which could rule on the matter at any time.

"I think the draft report shows a lot of areas that show even the state of Hawaii doesn't have a handle on all of its management of its land," said Haunani Apoliona, OHA chairwoman.

Apoliona said the suggested approach and information being reviewed provide OHA with an understanding of all lands previously owned or controlled by the Hawaiian kingdom and the government, and the disposition of them since then.

While the four-year process outlined is lengthy, Apoliona said it is appropriate considering the breadth and depth of the plan. But she reserved comment yesterday on whether OHA should help pay for it.

"Though the amount is substantial, it is indeed a long-overdue action by the state in its responsibility to account for public trust lands," she said.

Consultants from R.M. Towill Corp., which prepared the progress report, did a two-phase sampling project last year to do title searches, surveying, mapping and other work using the geographic information system as the foundation for a comprehensive ceded-land inventory.

To ensure ceded lands are properly identified, title searches back to the Great Mahele of 1848 would be needed. Genealogical searches would be used for instances where there are broken chains of title, the report said.

An estimated team of 10 full-time experienced abstractors is needed throughout the project, with strong staff support from various state agencies.

The company is proposing two options. One would be to inventory the lands and build a geographic information system on a county-to-county basis at a cost of $18.5 million.

The other option would be to first do all the title searches, then input the information into the GIS database. That option would cost $19.1 million.

Higa said the county-by-county option is the best opportunity to complete a definitive public land trust information system.

The cost per county under the plan is $7.044 million for Honolulu, $5.6 million for Hawaii, $3.26 million for Maui and Molokai, and $2.58 million for Kauai.

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