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Case Study - Hawaii

Kuhio Highway Short Term Improvements, Kauai, Hawaii

Despite controversy, parties have agreed on measures to address highway widening in the Wailua Traditional Cultural Properties (TCP) Historic District. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed on October 22, 2013 details a commitment to better document and promote the long-term protection of this important Native Hawaiian landscape. View the MOA here


With financial assistance from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) will widen 6/10 of a mile on the Kuhio Highway, south of Kapa’a on the Island of Kauai. HDOT has been working on a long-term solution to traffic congestion on the Kuhio Highway, with a possible new route bypassing Kapa’a. Until that can be decided, HDOT proposes to widen 0.65 miles on the southbound side of Kuhio Highway from three to four lanes, and to bury 1.7 miles of existing overhead utility lines as part of mitigation for endangered and threatened sea birds in the area.  The project has been controversial because of its location at the mouth of the Wailua River and proximity to the beach, which is a place of historic significance to Native Hawaiians.

Wailua Complex of Heiau National Historic LandmarkThe Wailua TCP district is comprised of multiple traditional cultural places associated with the Wailua River, which together form a sacred landscape. The makai (beach) portion of Wailua, described as Wailuanuiaho’ano, is a place of particular importance for Native Hawaiian groups and is immediately adjacent to the highway. The TCP district also includes the Wailua Complex of Heiau National Historic Landmark (NHL). None of the heiau that make up the NHL will be directly affected by the undertaking. Three archaeological properties, contributing properties within the Wailua TCP District, are within the APE for the undertaking and will be adversely affected.



The ACHP became involved early in consultation, due to the expressed concern of several Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHOs). The ACHP reviewed the Section 106 compliance for three transportation projects at the request of Hui Na Makaiwa o Wailunauiaho’ano, a local Native Hawaiian Organization (NHO). Section 106 review had already been completed, in consultation with the Hawaii State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) for the construction of a new bridge and a bicycle path, but additional consultation with NHOs was needed to conclude Section 106 for the proposed widening of the Kuhio Highway. ACHP staff and FHWA’s Federal Preservation Officer (FPO) provided assistance to FHWA in carrying out the steps of Section 106 and concluding an MOA for this undertaking. With NHOs, frustrations ran high, in large part due to the lack of prior communication on all three projects.


In addition to Hui Na Makaiwa o Wailunuaiaho’ano, FHWA carried out extensive consultation with the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA), the Kaua’i Islands Burial Council, Kaua’i Historic Preservation Review Commission, and other Native Hawaiian organizations. Between 2009 and 2013, FHWA held nine consultation meetings with NHOs, HDOT, ACHP and the SHPO.

Signatories to the Memorandum of Agreement include:

Federal Highway Administration, Hawaii Division
Hawaii Department of Transportation
Hawaii State Historic Preservation Officer
Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Consulting parties who have indicated they wish to concur in the MOA:

Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of State Parks (State Parks)
Dr. Kamana’opono M. Crabbe, Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA)
Mr. Keith R. Yap, Kaua’I Ni’ihua Island Burial Council
Mr. Sy Shim, Mr. Kaimi Hermosura, Mr. Ed Kaiwi, Mr. Ed Taniguchi, and Mr. Walter Apana, Konohiki of Kaua’i
Ms. Liberta Albao, Queen Deborah Kapule Hawaiian Civic Club
Ms. Cheryl Lovell-Obatake, Cultural Monitor and Aha Kiole (Puna District)
Ms. Leilani Kaleiohi
Ms. Puanani Rogers, Ho’okipa Network
Ms. Mahelani Sylva, Ni’ihau/Kauai’I Aha Moku, Aha Pua’a Community Coordinator


Consultation began with a lot of contention among the parties, and slowly, over time, resulted in a collaborative approach to determine appropriate mitigation.  Not all NHOs agree with the mitigation package, however, many of them found that their concerns were addressed through consultation and that the mitigation measures are beneficial to the Native Hawaiian community.

The MOA includes the following requirements:

  1. FHWA and HDOT will identify an on-site point of contact (POC) who will receive and distribute daily archaeological and cultural monitoring reports to the parties to the MOA on a weekly basis.

  2. HDOT will reduce signage along Kuhio Highway in order to improve the cultural sensitivity of the highway corridor; minimize street lighting in the vicinity of two nearby heiau (Malaeha’akoa Heiau and Hikinaakala Heiau), prepare an ethnographic study which will be used to review the Wailua Complex of Heiau and revise, as needed, the National Historic Landmark description; prepare a video documentary about the Wailua TCP Historic District; provide at least one training workshop to improve the relationships among NHOs, FHWA, and HDOT;

  3. HDOT will also conduct a two-year shoreline review and monitoring program to analyze the potential for erosion along the Wailua Beach.

  4. HDOT will conduct archaeological data recovery at three archaeological properties in the area of potential effects and will implement archaeological and cultural monitoring during construction.  


Many ideas for mitigation were considered and discussed at the many Section 106 consultation meetings. The measures included in the MOA are those that were most desirable to the NHOs and the SHPO, and that were commensurate with the nature and extent of the effects of the project on historic properties. The In this review, FHWA and HDOT acknowledged that the Wailua Complex of Heaiu is part of a larger landscape of traditional cultural and religious significance to Native Hawaiian Organizations, and that the area along Wailua Beach is particularly sensitive to NHOs because of possible burials. The areas close to the beach that will be disturbed were subjected to archaeological testing, with a Native Hawaiian cultural monitor present, and were determined to contain no human remains or other cultural features.  Through this consultation and the identification of the Wailua TCP District communication and trust between NHOs and the HDOT and FHWA staff has improved. Also, mitigation measures in the MOA further aid in better understanding of important cultural places to NHOs on the Island of Kauai.   


Updated December 13, 2013

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