State's historic preservation division may lose critical funding - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State's historic preservation division may lose critical funding

State Senator Clayton Hee State Senator Clayton Hee
Laura Thielen Laura Thielen

By Duane Shimogawa bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Preserving history. The state may be forced to take on the financial burden of our historic sites, like Honolulu Hale and the State Capitol.

It's the topic of a heated legislative hearing on Saturday. A National Park Service report issued last month warned the state could lose more than $500,000 in annual federal grants if it didn't fix several problems in the division. This means nearly half of its yearly budget could be history.

High risk status. That's the troubling phrase describing the State's Historic Preservation Division or SHPD.

For example, the NPS was critical of SHPD in several areas, including not maintaining a functional inventory of historic properties that can be readily accessible to the public. Another was that staff isn't meeting qualifications.

"These problems have impacted SHPD's operations to the point that the responsibilities delegated to the states under the National Historic Preservation Act are not currently being successfully fulfilled in Hawaii," National Park Service Pacific Area director Frank Hays said.

SHPD takes care of nearly 40,000 historic sites across the state, including places like Pearl Harbor and the State Capitol.

The report didn't detail any specific cases with poor results. But State Senator Clayton Hee, chair of the Water, Land Ag, and Hawaiian Affairs Committee wanted answers, bringing all parties together to find possible solutions.

"NPS is saying fish or cut bait and you folks either fish or cut bait or you do something in between," Hee said.

Department of Land and Natural Resources chair Laura Thielen who oversees SHPD, disagrees with many of the issues in the report.

"We are concerned that the plan that they have laid out does not take into account the fiscal situation that the state is facing," she said. "We're also concerned that the plan does not take into account the limited pool from which our state has to draw upon four professional qualified staff."

Either way, the state faces a huge task. A task to make sure historic sites like Pearl Harbor be preserved for generations to come.

NPS has given SHPD two years to correct the problems that were first identified by a state audit in 2002.

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