Final Resilient Hawaiian Communities Update
Sean Aronson, Post-J.D. Fellow
On December 31, 2018, the Resilient Hawaiian Communities (RHC) initiative officially drew to a close. The inaugural two-year project set out to build capacity within two Native Hawaiian communities through the creation of a community driven resiliency plan. Each community – Kailapa Homestead on Hawaiʻi Island and Waiehu Kou Homestead on Maui – completed a resiliency plan that will serve as a roadmap for the future and allow them to engage even more community members in the implementation of the goals they worked so hard to set.
The plans integrated the latest climate research with the specific place-based solutions the communities identified to best prepare for the ecological impacts anticipated as a result of climate change. During several iterations of the overall plans, the communities worked on identifying the concrete steps that would bring them closer to a resilient community – that is, one that is less vulnerable to the extreme weather events associated with climate change.
Each community prioritized a few areas or paths to best adapt to the coming climate effects. For Kailapa, that pathway involved securing additional freshwater (potable and non-potable) resources for the future. As the legal fellow, I was tasked with researching how the community could access the surface water that flows mauka of their community. I was able to confirm that in the early 1970s, a large 16-inch pipe was installed by the State (DLNR) with the intention of bringing water down the mountain to the not-yet-built Kailapa Homestead. But when the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, the new regulations required for making surface water potable meant that the project was now cost prohibitive. Consequently, the pipe and all other water infrastructure was abandoned and Kailapa is today left without a reliable water supply. DHHL purchases Kailapa’s potable water needs from the adjacent Kohala Ranch at a very high price.
On Maui, the critical pathway for resilience is less focused on natural resources and more on human resources. While their community has been around for about ten years, it has struggled to build capacity and maintain leadership. The RHC project has allowed the community to grow that capacity and engage not just their own members, but to also reach out to people and groups in their surrounding area that are doing similar work. In addition, Waiehu is also producing a series of short videos that document how the community approached these difficult questions.
The plans are currently being finalized for clarity and focus and will eventually be available on the web for other communities to learn from, and maybe even use to create their own resiliency plans. While there are no proposals to continue to the RHC project at this time, the communities’ hard work will benefit their members as well as other parts of Hawaiʻi, proving that through shared knowledge everyone will become stronger in the face of climate change.