Ceremony to mark return
of Kahoolawe to the state

A formal ceremony is being planned at Iolani Palace on Nov. 12 to mark the transfer of control of Kahoolawe from the Navy to the state's Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, which will manage the 28,800-acre island used for military target practice for 51 years.

Gov. Linda Lingle is scheduled to attend the noontime observance, which will follow a Hawaiian cultural ceremony of chants at the ahu on the palace grounds, said John Williamson, whose public relations company was hired by the commission.

Invitations have gone out to members of Hawaii's congressional delegation, Navy officials, state lawmakers, trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Maui County officials, members of the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana and native Hawaiian groups.

Because the official hand-over date, Nov. 11, is also Veterans Day, the formal ceremonies were delayed until Nov. 12 so key government officials could participate, Williamson said.

Kahoolawe is six miles southwest of Maui and was used by the Navy as a target and training area from 1941 until 1990, when former President Bush ordered a halt to the exercises.

The Protect Kahoolawe Ohana staged a series of civil disobedience occupations of the island beginning in 1976, resulting in arrests, two apparent drownings and national attention to the issue.

The group's lawsuit against the Navy in 1976 was in part settled with a 1980 consent decree providing Hawaiians and others access to the island for religious, cultural, educational and scientific activities.

In 1993, Congress approved spending up to $400 million through November 2003 to clear the ordnance and required Kahoolawe's return to state control.

Also in 1993, the Legislature established the Kahoolawe Island Reserve, directing that the island and its surrounding waters can be used only for native Hawaiian cultural, spiritual and subsistence purposes and prohibiting commercial uses.

The Navy reports ordnance has been cleared from the surface of 19,709 acres of the island and cleared to a subsurface area on 2,522 acres, exceeding the goals the Navy set when the cleanup contract was awarded in 1997.

Money for continuing the restoration and cultural activities on the island along with the state's liability remains a concern for the state.

Congress has approved $18 million for the Navy to finalize its clearance operations. The Navy is expected to leave the island by March 12, the commission said.

The commission has about $30 million in federal funds in trust to manage the island and will pursue grants, donations and state funding to continue its operations, according to Stanton Enomoto, commission acting executive director.


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