State's control over Mauna Kea Access Road could be in jeopardy
That would mean DOT does not have the authority to restrict access.
A dispute over which state entity has jurisdiction of Mauna Kea Access road heated up at the State Capitol Wednesday.
The State Department of Transportation controls the road. That's the area where demonstrators opposing the building of a Thirty Meter Telescope have held ground since last month.
Lawmakers grilled the Department of Hawaiian Homelands stating, documents that show the road is within DHHL's jurisdiction.
That would mean DOT does not have the authority to restrict access and enforce closures.
In 1995, Act 14 was passed. The land claim settlement allowed the state to acquire control over DHHL land if the department formally exchanged it.
On Wednesday, DHHL chair Bill Aila admitted to lawmakers an exchange never occurred.
"We are in the process of resolving this right now by convening the parties. The governor has made it a priority. I cannot go back in time. I can only do what is in front of me so that's where we're at," Chair Aila said.
"Without that compliance of Act 14, the state of Hawaii cannot claim title to Maunakea Access Road.That road belongs to the beneficiaries and the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act," State Senator Kai Kahele said.
The apparent legal loophole attracted crowds to the hearing. Students from O'ahu charter schools filled the halls monitoring what was being said inside the packed hearing.
Kahele tells KITV4, if its determined DHHL still holds control the law would protect a portion of demonstrators protesting on Hawai'i Island.
"I would argue that any beneficiary that's defined by the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act which basically says if you are at least 50% Hawaiian blood quantum that you have every right to be on Maunakea Access Road," said Sen. Kahele.
The issue will be up for immediate discussion with the Senate Water, Land and Hawaiian Affairs committees.