Case Study: Hanalei American Heritage River, Hawaii
Tourism as the engine for locally based economic development is the most oft-repeated theme which the environmental groups and government agencies cite when they paint the rosy rationale for local government and enterprises to support the American Heritage Rivers.
Tourism is a powerful centerpiece for preservationists to use in areas of the country where riverine areas have been exploited for agriculture, shipping, industry, resource extraction and human habitation since colonial days and before. Concerns about pollution and vistas argue against development that might be incompatible with tourism. Historic and other preservationists can argue that a landscape of quaint village centers surrounded by open countryside precludes a multitude of inappropriate uses in a "Heritage" region.
But observers of preservationist governance have also seen outstanding examples of the squelching of projects that would enhance tourism and the economic engine it would provide for the local people.
Perhaps the latest egregious example of preservationist governance striking at tourism is that of the Hanalei American Heritage River on the island of Kauai, in the State of Hawaii.
On the Hanalei River, Governor Ben Cayetano proclaimed shortly after a visit to the river from vacationing Vice President Gore that all tour boats are permanently banned.
"What we have in Hanalei is one of the most valuable biological, scenic and recreational resources in the world,"(1) declared the Governor on August 24, when he announced the ban to the surprise of local government and the local businesses operating the tours. According to local reports, the ban will kill a $7.5 million economic engine for the region.
The boats which are used for the commercial tours are small craft, many of which are rubber rafts with outboard motors and carry 8 to 12 people. Small craft owners have been taking tourists on the Hanalei for 30 to 40 years.
A state boating official spoke breezily of relocating the tour boat operators to new harbor facilities, as though the government were unaware that infrastructure such as roads serving potential new locations along the isolated shores is poor or nonexistent and as though it were of no consequence that the businesses operating the tours owned river land and were invested in stationary facilities uniquely suited to their business in their present location.
In the governor's pronouncement, he also confidently spoke of moving future access to the Hanalei River and estuary to harbors at seaside locations outside the estuary. The businesses at these locations use higher powered, larger craft than the banned tour boats which have been plying the Hanalei. It would not be likely that the businesses operating small craft or the boatyards dependent on them could endure the cost of liquidating at great loss and reinvesting elsewhere in new facilities.
One operator of small rubber rafts, Clancy Greff, was quoted in The Honolulu Advertiser that "the decision means bankruptcy for him and his family-owned business." The Advertiser said that he in effect suggested that "the decision will kill the small entrepreneur in favor of corporate boaters able to build the big vessels needed for larger tours from commercial boat harbors such as Port Allen"(2) on the island rim.
Patricia Sheehan is a native Hawaiian who with her husband Michael owns a boatyard for tour boats on the Hanalei River. They have been involved in lengthy litigation over permits. Their $1 million investment on their enterprise was encouraged by the County and State, whose governor has just made it worthless. She reflected recently on the possible hidden agenda behind the Hanalei American Heritage River designation.
"The government types want the sort of people who don't work, but just build and live there," said Mrs. Sheehan in an interview.(3)
Without having studied the course of preservationist zoning that is widely precipitated by regional environmental land designations, Mrs. Sheehan had succinctly stated the consistent theme, which can be summed up in one word, "gentrification."
In Hawaii, to protect the new American Heritage River, the preservationists are exploiting native peoples' issues, and concerns (which have been disproved) about pollution and vegetation damage resulting from outboard motors. They argue for "tranquility," but hesitate to mention that without tourists the ones who will enjoy the river peace are the wealthy who are buying up land as values inflate out of reach of ordinary people. Prominent and influential individuals like Vice President Al Gore, who took a family holiday at the Hanalei River barely a week before Gov. Cayetano's pronouncement, can be assured of an exclusive vacation spot.
Negotiations abruptly suspended
Governor Cayetano's "decision came as a surprise to everyone involved in the dispute, including Kauai Mayor Maryanne Kusaka," according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.(4)
The county mayor, whose municipality encompasses the island of Kauai, made a written statement, where she said, "The county was not consulted in the governor's latest bold decision on the Hanalei boating issue."(5)
The governor's sudden ban on tour boats on the Hanalei River repeated another theme reminiscent of Heritage preservation the superseding of public processes of citizen review and negotiation. This tactic was prominent in the 1996 Yellowstone affair where the Clinton Administration circumvented systematic environmental review under federal law to effectively veto the application by Crowne Butte Mines for the New World Mine, a gold mine 3 miles outside Yellowstone National Park. The park is a U.N. World Heritage Site and the mine would have been in an area that environmentalists consider to be a "buffer" zone.
In Hanalei, a committee of local citizens and environmentalists had been meeting to negotiate a settlement to disputes over the use of the river after the locality was shaken by lawsuits and protests precipitated by environmentalists such as Sierra Club representatives who traveled to the island from Honolulu and elsewhere. The governor's pronouncement negated the effort of this official "Limits of Acceptable Change" committee to achieve a balance acceptable to opposing interests and viewpoints. In June the committee members who were concerned about the future of boating had been surprised by the selection of the Hanalei on a list of ten American Heritage Rivers by the White House panel.
Katie McGinty, chair of the President's Council on Environmental Quality, who heads the program, had publicly professed on numerous occasions that nominations had to proceed from broad "community" support, but as was the case for many other elite designations over the years, the Hanalei nomination was done by a college professor with virtually no community participation. A prominent Hawaiian preservationist, Professor Michael Kido, director of the Hawaii Stream Research at the University of Hawaii, in Kapaa, submitted the nomination.
The professor's application was extremely biased. Emphasizing ancient native ways at great length to the virtual omission of local economic viability, he paid brief lip service to recreation. But the only methods of recreation he mentioned were "hiking, photography, kayaking, camping, fishing, surfing, snorkeling."(6)
Without the knowledge of local Hawaiians, the Hanalei had been promoted as a Heritage region since 1994, according to a list quietly maintained at the time by the Heritage Area specialists at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C. According to the National Trust listing, Barnes Reznik, who directs the Museum Grove Farm Homestead in Lihua, provided the project leadership. The National Trust project description attributed "extensive community involvement" to the Hanalei project, but no one interviewed by PRFA knew the Heritage project existed then.
The Hanalei Heritage Area project called for "long-term planning efforts through conservation of natural resources and landscapes, designation of historic districts, education of residents and visitors on the fragile array of resources in the Hanalei Valley, and expansion of the role taro plays as a traditional food."(7)
But, as in other Heritage regions, the work toward federal designation was being concealed from the general local community, and it remained largely secret for over four years until the White House selection committee revealed and approved Professor Kido's nomination. The announcement of the selection ironically focused at one point on the objective of promoting tourism and at another point to the battle between "uncrowded" recreation and "tour boating businesses." The stage was clearly set for the governor's ban. Another portrayed contrast of acceptable and unacceptable uses may auger future events. The announcement spoke of the collapse of ditch structures having stopped controversial diversions to sugar fields. But it gave a mystic connotation to taro cultivation, judging by a report stating, "The Hanalei... flows placidly along hundreds of acres of taro farms irrigated with its waters."(8)
After the designation took place, a four-day meeting was convened by Kido to reach a "partnership agreement" between the "community" and the federal government. After over 20 years of heated conflict and the many orderly meetings of the Limits of Acceptable Change committee, agreement between the opposing parties was claimed in a mere four days. The university of Hawaii, Kido's affiliation, became the "convening agency" and funnel for federal funds. The "community" remained undefined but, in a forced consensus, for which no minutes were taken, it was determined that native Hawaiian concepts would dominate the structure. The definitions of the native Hawaiian concepts were left hanging and an agreement, copies of which were unsigned and unavailable, forwarded via Kido to the federal government.
Heritage Designation in Action
The Hanalei designation demonstrates many ways that the American Heritage Rivers scheme is now being applied and will be applied to diminish the hard-won traditions of representative democracy and federal protections of civil rights:
1. The Heritage designation's fraudulent use of a non-existent "community" as the genesis of the government action, rather than local representative government through the public hearing and election process.
2. The secretiveness of the application and concealment of the Heritage region designation process from the people of the region.
3. The planned exploitation of the Heritage designation process to diminish vibrant locally based economic activity, even if it is non-polluting.
4. The manipulation of meetings and program planning by use of "consensus" and self-appointed facilitators.
5. The deceptive citation of such themes as increased tourism as goals of the Heritage program, when the reality is that any theme will be superseded if it cannot be used to argue for decreased economic activity.
6. The flexibility whereby a new set of Heritage values such as nativism, racism, and even politically correct crop selection can be brought to the fore by even the federal government if these values can bring on board a vocal, exploitable constituency that will at least temporarily support economic dislocation of local people.
7. The use of Heritage values to promote a re-structuring of real estate ownership to benefit well-connected elites and favored business sectors.
The themes of Heritage region designations are therefore repeated for the Hanalei River. The overarching results of such designations are predictable. The Heritage designation for the Hanalei River can be expected to promote the diminishment of private property ownership and economic freedom, the increase of government control over private property and the diminishment of autonomous home rule by local representative government.
"Cayetano's stand on boating," The Garden Island,
August 25, 1998, p.2
(2) Jan Ten Bruggencate, "Hanalei boat tours to be banned" The Honolulu Advertiser, August 25, 1998, p.A2
(3) PRFA interview Nov. 5, 1998
(4) "Hanalei boating ban could kill industry," editorial Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Aug. 26, 1998, p.A-18
(5) "Kusaka says county not consulted," The Garden Island, August 25, 1998, p.1
(6) Michael H. Kido, "Nomination for Hanalei River, Kauai Island, Hawaii to the American Heritage River System" (undated), p.2
(7) Chris Ditman "A Guide to Regional Heritage Projects Nationwide" (National Trust for Historic Preservation with Southwestern Pennsylvania Heritage Preservation Commission, 1994), p.2
(8) Jan Ten Bruggencate's summary of Prof. Michael Kido's announcement in "Hanalei River in national spotlight" The Honolulu Advertiser June 18, 1998, p.1