Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Preserving the "Gateway to the North Shore"

As Wayne Yoshioka from Hawaii Public Radio points out in his 2-part series (click here to access the MP3's) on the Galbraith land acquisition bills, much of the public attention this session has been on the proposed purchase of Turtle Bay. Yet, HB2292 and HB2293, and SB2421, all related to the purchase of Galbraith Estate trust lands, are alive and moving steadily forward. And, with a little digging, you can read all about the fascinating story of George Galbraith, his estate, his beneficiaries, and now the effort to allow the state to purchase the lands for agriculture and preservation.

Called the "Gateway to the North Shore", the Galbraith Estate trust lands are comprised of over 2,000 acres of prime agricultural land in central Oahu, including a 50% interest in Lake Wilson, and are estimated to be worth about $100 million. Bank of Hawaii is the trustee of the estate which lists over 600 beneficiaries. Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Chair of the House Finance Committee, who introduced the Galbraith bills in the House said:

"For all the different land opportunities we have right now, this is probably the best we have right now, that can actually serve multiple needs -- farming, preservation of open land, protection of Hawaiian cultural sites, and the watershed with Lake Wilson."

"This project is probably the farthest along because you have users who are interested in getting on the land and actually farming on it."
The Trust for Public Land is currently appraising the property and would serve as a partner in the acquisition. The Army wants the land to remain in agriculture as a buffer zone for Schofield Barracks, and is willing to put up monies for purchase.

HB2292 authorizes the Agribusiness Development Corporation to purchase the agricultural lands of the Galbraith Estate and allows the corporation to lease the lands for up to 55 years. (Introduced by Rep. Marcus Oshiro who represents District 39 - Wahiawa, Whitmore Village, Poamoho.)

HB2293 has the same purpose, but also allows ADC to use the power of eminent domain to acquire the lands. This bill comes up for a hearing in the Senate on Friday, March 28th, at 9:30 a.m. in Conference Room 211. (Also introduced by Rep. Marcus Oshiro.)

SB2421 authorizes the Department of Land and Natural Resources to acquire the lands. (Introduced by Senator Robert Bunda, District 22 - Mililani Mauka, Wahiawa, Haleiwa, Mokuleia, North Shore.)

A liability concern has risen about the acquisition of the Lake Wilson Dam, which was built in the early 1900's. However, Rep. Oshiro says that the state will always have the responsibility to ensure that the dams are maintained, so that's not the issue. "The issue is the opportunity of 3 billion gallons of water, gravity flow to the North Shore, Mokuleia out to Waimea Bay, so it's an opportunity of a lifetime, and I hope we can seize this opportunity."

From a cultural standpoint, Kukaniloko, a site of Royal Birthing Stones, lies in the middle of the land area, and that has garnered the support of native hawaiian organizations to purchase and preserve the lands.

Photo: Kukaniloko, Honolulu Star-Bulletin

For some historical perspective on the Galbraith Estate, the best place to seek information is here, a site connected to Ian Lind's blog. Ian is the great grandson of Robert William Cathcart, a friend of George Galbraith, and one of the original beneficiaries of the estate. Ian reports that the trustee has been "miserly" with the release of information to the over 600 beneficiaries, and his site was formed to provide them with an efficient way to collect, receive and share pertinent information on what's happening with the estate. It's an interesting read.

On this site, you will find a great collection of documents, photos, and even a mystery story on what happened to George Galbraith's grave site.

Photo: A young George Galbraith. Credit: Pearl Featheran, Ian Lind

Who was George Galbraith? According to various sources, he was a cattle rancher. He was born in Ireland and was on his way to California to seek his fortune in the Gold Rush. He stopped in Hawaii in the mid-1800's and never left. He died in 1904. Beneficiaries of his will are scattered throughout Hawaii, the mainland, Canada, Australia, Ireland and Scotland.

What are the bills' chances? According to the Finance Chair: "Most of the members understand the importance of it for me and the Wahiawa community but they also see a larger importance now because of food security and the need to produce more of our local food on our lands. I've been working on this for about 14 years, ever since I got in, and I'm going to be driving real hard. This is our last great push, so I'm going to give it all that I got."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What about the beneficiaries??? Emminent domain???? Does that leave anything for the beneficiaries???