complete after 62 years
Formal ceremonies for the
transfer will take place today
Sixty-two years after the Navy took control of Kahoolawe for use as a target and training range, control of the 45-square-mile Hawaiian island southwest of Maui returned to the state yesterday.
The actual turnover by the Navy under 1993 legislation came with little fanfare as the state honored its veterans, setting formal ceremonies for Kahoolawe today.
The Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, a state agency created to govern access to the island, said the event at Iolani Palace in Honolulu was pushed back to avoid a conflict with Veterans Day observances.
"Isn't it wonderful?" said former U.S. Rep. Pat Saiki, who had opposed military occupation of the island and was instrumental in getting the military out.
"People tried so hard to organize to get the federal government to stop bombing the island," Saiki said in an interview yesterday. "I was delighted to be helpful in getting that accomplished."
She praised plans to set the island aside for Hawaiian cultural and environmental preservation.
The Navy took control of Kahoolawe when martial law was declared after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
It was used as a target and training area until 1990, when President George H.W. Bush ordered a halt to the exercises after years of protests and lawsuits by Hawaiians. Congress agreed to clean up the land in 1993 and return it to local control within 10 years.
Saiki, a Republican who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 1991, said she brought the issue of Kahoolawe to the president's attention.
Gov. Linda Lingle, along with members of Hawaii's congressional delegation, Navy officials, state lawmakers, trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Maui County officials, members of the cultural preservation group Protect Kahoolawe Ohana and native Hawaiian groups were scheduled to attend today's ceremony.
The noontime observance will follow a Hawaiian cultural ceremony of Hawaiian chants on the palace grounds.
Lingle, a former Maui mayor, remembered living in Kihei when the Navy would conduct bombing exercises.
"The bombing would be so intense, and it's so close to the south side of Maui, that dishes would fall off of the shelf," she said yesterday. "When the bombing stopped it was very noticeable to everyone and it was an historic day."
Lingle, who as mayor visited the island during the beginning stages of the cleanup project, said she expects the ceremony to be an emotional experience for more than just native Hawaiians.
"I think anybody who goes there understands the strong feelings that native Hawaiians have for Kahoolawe," she said. "It's just a good and important day."