H.R. NO.



H.D. 1





requesting a study of the state conservation district program.



WHEREAS, Hawaii is an island state with limited resources, and Hawaii's Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) were established under the Department of Land and Natural Resources in 1947 under chapter 180, Hawaii Revised Statutes; and

WHEREAS, the legal basis for the SWCD is the United States Soil and Water Conservation Act of 1935, which enabled the formation of local SWCD to address protection of soil and water resources; and

WHEREAS, there are 16 SWCD in Hawaii and nearly 3,000 local districts nationwide that promote local efforts to install best management practices for the prevention of erosion and water pollution from agricultural and urban activities, in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS), formerly the USDA's Soil and Water Conservation Service, which provides expertise, staffing, and conservation plans for district landowners and land operators to ensure protection against soil and water erosion; and

WHEREAS, conservation plans on agricultural lands are used in place of county grubbing and grading permits and require protective measures such as riparian buffers, berms, terracing, cover crops, nutrient management, pest management, filter strips, and mulching prior to any soil movement by tractor for grubbing, grading, or planting; and

WHEREAS, because the SWCD program is voluntary, although violators are reported to the respective county jurisdictions responsible for soil movement, enforcement seldom occurs because of lack of resources and inconsequential fines; and

WHEREAS, massive numbers of new landowners engaging in unmanaged clearing of agricultural classified lands have resulted in debris filling gulches and streams, posing threats to neighboring properties and causing damage from stream runoffs and flooding during heavy rains; and

WHEREAS, new programs initiated by various agencies relating to water quality standards, watershed management, coastal zone runoffs, and nonpoint source pollution have been carried out without collaboration and partnership with NRCS field staff or coordination with their ongoing work in state conservation districts, causing confusion and conflicting directives at the local level among farmers and ranchers; and

WHEREAS, the SWCD program has been an undervalued program that has implemented critical resource conservation work at the field level with scarce resources for more than 60 years; and

WHEREAS, the SWCD program's valuable grass-roots network of landowners and land users designed to ensure best resource management practices with the help of federal service expertise has the potential of helping to improve and combine agricultural practices with land stewardship in practical ways that will benefit the State's finite resources; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Representatives of the Twenty-second Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2004, that the Legislative Reference Bureau is requested to:

(1) Conduct a study of the State Conservation District program to best determine its future directions and responsibilities;

(2) Evaluate the methods by which each county processes and exempts land that is governed by soil and water conservation districts from local grading ordinances and include this evaluation in its report to the Legislature; and

(3) Include recommended statutory or regulatory changes that should be made to ensure appropriate regulatory oversight in its report to the Legislature;


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the study also include recommendations on how best to integrate the differing resource conservation initiatives being conducted by state and federal government entities involved in water quality, environmental resources, and agriculture; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that recommendations be made regarding structural improvements, funding, meaningful penalties, and other mechanisms to strengthen the State's efforts toward resource conservation for the future; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a report be submitted to the Legislature no later than 20 days prior to the convening of the 2005 Regular Session; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this Resolution be transmitted to the Directors of Land and Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Health, Acting Director of the Legislative Reference Bureau, Chair of each state conservation district board, Mayor of each county in the State, the state soil conservationist of the USDA's NRCS program, and the President of the Hawaii State Association of Conservation Districts. Report Title:

Soil and Water Conservation LRB Study