Hawaii's Most Endangered Historic Places

Each year, we look for our state’s most endangered historic places through a partnership with the Historic Hawaii Foundation and the State Historic Preservation Division. The list is a call to action, but it’s also a way to appreciate the hidden treasures of our built environment. This year we see Kapahulu Avenue with new eyes, imagine the way plantation workers gathered in the 1900s and consider—if only for a moment—if an ugly building is worth saving.

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photo: courtesy robin kaye

What threatens it?

Historic preservation and the pursuit of alternative energy are both well-intentioned movements in society. However, not everyone agrees that both can happen in the Kaa Ahupuaa.

In 2008, landowner Castle & Cooke Resorts LLC was permitted to build a 170-turbine, 400-megawatt wind farm in the ahupuaa. Community group Friends of Lanai is against the project. “It is irreparable damage to such a beautiful place in return for very little for our community,” says Robin Kaye. The construction of the turbines, roads and power facilities would significantly alter the landscape, and all of the power generated would go to Oahu. The only benefit to Lanai would be a handful of permanent jobs, he says.

In 2009, after public input, the Public Utilities Commission decided to reexamine the project and separate the wind farm from the undersea cable that would shuttle the energy from Lanai to Oahu, which started the whole EIS process again for the Lanai wind project. Harry Saunders, executive vice president of Castle & Cooke, says that, as of now, the revised proposal is to build a 200-megawatt wind farm with a 6,000-acre, 56-turbine array.

What can be done?

There are still opportunities to strike a balance between the competing interests of historic preservation and sourcing alternative energy, though it doesn’t seem that the project will be stopped altogether.

“We listen to community concerns,” says Saunders, pointing to previous projects on Lanai. “We’ve built hotels on lands that had cultural sensitivities, and cut portions out to preserve [these] areas.” The company has publicly promised to give access to sportsman and visitors and touts a more comprehensive cultural survey in the works, a survey, he says, that would never have been done if not for this project.

Related links:
Updates: A Look Back at Past Endangered Places

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,November

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