Congressman seeks Big Island shoreline protection
PAHALA, Hawai'i — U.S. Rep. Ed Case is taking the first step toward federal protection for the Big Island's Ka`u Coast, including the famous Punaluu Black Sand Beach and miles of pristine shoreline being eyed by developers.
"These resources will in all likelihood be lost if we don't move to protect them soon," said Case (D-Hawai'i) in a letter to the Interior Department formally requesting a study of the region to determine whether it should become Hawai'i's first national seashore or part of a national park.
Case said as much as 80 miles of shoreline could be put under federal protection. His letter, dated March 31, requests a "resource/reconnaissance survey" — a first step toward federal oversight of the area which could be annexed by Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The letter is addressed to Jonathan Jarvis, the department's western regional director.
Case called the coastline "largely pristine: unspoiled, undeveloped and uninhabited" with a "wealth of Native Hawaiian archaeological and historical features, endangered species, magnificent beaches and spectacular vistas."
Case said there is "a rare opportunity to preserve and protect an entire coastal system of a unique natural, scenic, historical, cultural and ecosystem combination found nowhere else in our world." He suggested that making it part of the national park system might be "the best overall protection structure available."
The shoreline along the southern tip of the Big Island is the longest undeveloped coastline in the state. Large tracts of land once used to grow sugarcane have largely lain fallow since the last of the Big Island sugar plantations shut down in 1996.
Today, land prices around the island are skyrocketing. The region faces tremendous pressure from developers eager to build on the former agricultural and other open land.