Video by U.S. Geological Survey
COURTESY PARADISE HELICOPTERS
Lava pours into Kapoho Bay in early June. To the left are Waiopae tidepools, which have since been covered by lava.
The state agrees with Hawaii County that it’s time to kill a land purchase in Puna that was started before the property was made worthless by lava inundation.
Before Kilauea erupted anew in Leilani Estates on May 3, the county had planned to purchase a $2.7 million parcel from private owners to provide public access to the ocean. The land would have established a buffer between Vacationland development and the Waiopae tidepools.
But the rationale for the plan, which was authorized by the county in 2013 and supported by a 2016 state Legacy Land Conservation Program Grant Agreement, disappeared last month when lava consumed the tidepools, which were part of a state marine life conservation district.
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim expressed a desire to cancel the purchase earlier this month and had sought feedback from the state on whether it concurred.
The state grant agreement with the county would have provided $1.33 million in matching funds from the State Land Conservation Fund for the acquisition of over 300 acres of property owned by Kahi Inc., which is managed by retired judge Glenn Hara, his wife, Janet, and Gregory Abe.
On Friday, state Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case notified Kim of the state’s termination of the grant agreement.
“The Legacy Land Conservation Program is an important and very popular tool to protect critical lands for their natural and cultural values. We must continue to be diligent in ensuring best use of this public money to conserve resources for everyone’s benefit,” Case said in a statement.
DLNR said the resource values outlined in the county’s grant application — the property’s mix of rare native lowland forests, anchialine pools, and the pools and forests that filter water from agricultural areas and residential areas — are now gone.
State Legacy Land Conservation Commission Chairwoman Theresa Menard said in a statement, “I am saddened by the loss of this special place on the Puna coast, which was so beloved by the community. But it no longer makes sense to move forward with the purchase given the dramatic changes in the public benefits we hoped to secure.”