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New state law lifts permitting rules for harbors

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Lawmakers say a new state law could help the state develop commercial harbors faster and more efficiently.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a bill last week to allow the state Department of Transportation to sidestep conservation district permitting requirements when working on underwater areas of state commercial harbors.

Senate and House negotiators say permits can create unnecessary delays. They say efficiency is important because 98 percent of Hawaii’s imported goods pass through harbors.

But the Office of Hawaiian Affairs opposes the measure and says the law could endanger Hawaii’s natural resources. The agency says affected areas may include “ceded” lands that belong to Native Hawaiians.

The state Department of Transportation says there is already enough oversight to ensure that the environment will be protected.

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